FIVE WAYS TO CREATE A STATE OF FLOW IN THE CLASSROOM

26 04 2015

by John Spencer

 from   http://www.spencerideas.org/2015/04/five-ways-to-create-state-of-flow-in.html

We’ve all seen it before. A student suddenly gets “in the zone” in the midst of a project. (It’s even better when it happens with an entire class.) Time seems to simultaneously slow down and yet speed up all at once. There’s a sense of challenge and urgency but also a sense of relaxation. You can feel it intuitively. Something is different.

This state of optimal concentration is often described as “flow.”

I experience this place most often in creative work. I get lost in what I’m doing. I seem to be “zoned in” to the code or the design or the plot structure. There’s a sense that everything just fits right. Unfortunately, I see this happen more outside of the classroom than inside of it. I see kids hitting a state of flow on the basketball court or in theater or at a skate park.

I like the way Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,  author of the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes what “flow” looks and feels like:

The flow experience is when a person is completely involved in what he or she is doing, when the concentration is very high, when the person knows moment by moment what the next steps should be, like if you are playing tennis, you know where you want the ball to go, if you are playing a musical instrument you know what notes you want to play, every millisecond, almost. And you get feedback to what you’re doing. That is, if you’re playing music, you can hear whether what you are trying to do is coming out right or in tennis you see where the ball goes and so on. So there’s concentration, clear goals, feedback, there is the feeling that what you can do is more or less in balance with what needs to be done, that is, challenges and skills are pretty much in balance.

So, I’ve been reading up on the theory of flow and consciously trying to create an environment where this happens in my classroom. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to figure this out. However, I’ve grown passionate about this topic over the last two years. With that in mind, I’ve found a few things that seem to work in my classroom:

1. Slow down. Provide longer learning opportunities with fewer interruptions.

In my first few years of teaching, I thought student engagement required an action-packed classroom. I didn’t realize that my frantic pace was actually getting in the way. Students never had the chance to focus in a leisurely, relaxed way. Since then, I’ve realized it’s less about action and more about suspense. If there’s a true challenge that feels meaningful to students, they are more likely to stay focussed and get lost in what they are doing.

2. Provide the right scaffolding as you match the challenge to the skill level.

One of the key ideas in flow theory is that the challenge has to match a student’s perceived ability level. Too often, kids give up because what they are doing is way too difficult and there is a sense that they will never learn it. Other times, students are bored and the excessive scaffolding becomes a hurdle they have to climb over. This is why I try and differentiate the scaffolding I offer by keeping it optional and treating it like something students can use rather than something they are required to use.

3. Provide boat loads of choices.

It’s not surprising that students hit a state of flow when they are out on the ball field or in a theater or while playing an instrument. Not only do they feel competent (because of the right amount of scaffolding) but they also love what they are doing. I can get lost in writing a novel. I will never get lost in the moment of fixing a sprinkler system. This is where student choice becomes so valuable. Students get to decide topics and tasks that fit their own interests.

4. Restrict the choices.

This is the opposite approach to the last one. It’s the idea that certain restrictions can lead to creative breakthroughs. I’ve seen students get into a place of flow because they are focussed on solving a problem using limited resources. Here, they discover that freedom and choice are not synonymous and that sometimes limitations lead to opportunities.

5. Integrate mindfulness and metacognition into the projects.

I want students to know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are doing. This begins with students internalizing a rationale for the project. It has to feel meaningful to them. However, it also requires a state of mindfulness in the moment. I want students to be able to figure out the progress they are making in the moment and adjust when needed.

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Make a Game Out of Learning But don’t gamify it.

7 04 2015

By

150401_FT_GameClassroom
Teachers predominantly use games as rewards or reinforcement, rather than starting points for learning.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Brad Flickinger/Flickr.

In MIT’s Education Arcade, classic game consoles line the office corridor; rafters are strung with holiday lights; and inflatable, stuffed, and papier-mâché creatures lurk around every corner. When I stopped by recently, the arcade’s director, Eric Klopfer, and creative director, Scot Osterweil, talked enthusiastically about the surging interest in educational video games, now used by nearly three-quarters of America’s grade-school teachers, according to one survey.

But these optimistic, play-loving game gurus have come to despise the biggest buzzword in their field: gamification. According to Osterweil and Klopfer, both MIT professors, gamification too often means “making a game out of learning,” in which players win points, magical powers, or some other reward for practicing math, spelling, or another school subject. Klopfer and Osterweil argue that the best educational games capture what’s already fun about learning and make that central to the game. Gamification undermines what they see as the real opportunity for games to radically, albeit playfully, transform education.

The arcade, part of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program, partners with schools, gaming companies, and nonprofits to make educational video games. The staff also trains teachers to make their own games and to weave them into lesson plans, via on-campus courses and a new massive open online course, “Design and Development of Games for Learning,” that launches Wednesday.

“If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to make math fun,’ I don’t want to work with that person,” said Osterweil, “because they don’t think math is already fun.”

In gamified math, equations are often wedged into high-energy video worlds with wacky characters, points and player rankings, and maybe some explosions. It’s a model used by many popular educational games, such as Math Blaster, which has sold millions of copies and been reissued several times since it was introduced in 1983.

In Math Blaster, players fly space ships while math problems appear on the ships’ consoles and numbered asteroids hurtle toward them. If a console reads “15 – 7 = ?” and the ship’s laser guns fire at asteroid 5, nothing happens, except a red cabin light flashes to indicate a mistake. When correctly aimed at asteroid 8, the guns blast it out of the sky. Osterweil and Klopfer call games like this “drill and practice,” or “shooting flashcards.”

“This game isn’t telling you why you got a problem right or wrong or asking you to think about what arithmetic is,” Osterweil said in a video in their new MOOC. “If you’re good at arithmetic, Math Blaster’s fun, because it reinforces that you’re good at math. If you’re not understanding arithmetic, you’re getting nowhere with this.”

Back in the arcade offices, Klopfer said games that “make math fun” typically don’t require players to use math in any real sense. Instead, he said, “it’s ‘do some math so you get to shoot some asteroids.’ ”

Whenever the arcade team brainstorms a game, by contrast, it starts by finding people who are passionate about math, history, science, or any other subject and asks what drives and engages them.

“Maybe they love solving puzzles with math or experimenting with science,” said Klopfer. “Maybe they like how understanding math and science make the world seem different, or more comprehensible. Tap into that thing people already find interesting, and enhance it in the game.”

For instance, Education Arcade is now piloting The Radix Endeavor, a free, multiplayer online game designed to supplement high school math and science lessons. Based on conversations with working scientists and engineers, the game has players explore a fictional world called Ysola that’s ruled by evil, science-hoarding overlords called the Obfuscati. Players encounter Ysola’s beleaguered citizenry and embark on various quests while evading the Obfuscati, such as finding a cure for a deadly disease or using math to reinforce dangerously weak buildings.

“It’s not about solving this math problem, so you get a magic wand that can make this building stronger,” said Klopfer. “It’s figuring out how to learn the math, so you can use that understanding to keep the building from collapsing.”

A few years ago, Osterweil distilled what he calls the “four freedoms of play,” including freedom to experiment, freedom to fail, freedom to assume different identities, and freedom of effort (meaning the ability to mix full-throttle effort with periods of relaxation and disengagement). For Osterweil, these freedoms are about more than good game design.

“I argue that real learning happens in moments of playful exploration,” he said, “and all those freedoms should be present.”

Schools overemphasize the learning of facts and formulas, as well as the right answers for standardized tests, he said. Rather than changing that educational model, “bad ideas like gamification replicate it.”

The problem isn’t just the drill-and-practice design of many games, according to Klopfer. It’s also that teachers predominantly use games as rewards or reinforcement, rather than starting points for learning.

“The game should be an experience, where kids get to explore and problem-solve,” Klopfer said. “Then a teacher or a peer can help them make the connection between the game experience and concepts that can be generally applied.”

Along with games, the Education Arcade creates optional lesson plans, online forums, blogs, and one-day teacher training sessions, all to help bridge game learning with other classroom instruction.

Mark Knapp was teaching biology in the Boston public schools in 2012 when he heard about the Education Arcade’s plans for Radix and volunteered to be one of the teachers who helped with the game’s development. Knapp said Radix isn’t a substitute for the science curriculum he covers. What the game does do, he said, “is get kids interested in how scientist think and solve problems.” Since 2014, Knapp has been teaching kids with special needs in grades six through 12, and continues to useRadix in class.

“There are so many little skills, like dealing with frustration, that these kids are also getting from this game,” he said. “I can see kids becoming less frustrated with stuff they don’t understand. That’s really important for any student.”

Klopfer doesn’t think games should be the only way kids learn in school. “There are lots of other things to do in school: dialogues with peers, solving problems, building things. Sometimes, even lectures are helpful,” he said. “But there are aspects of good games that work well in school, even if they’re not part of a game.”

“I agree,” said Osterweil. “There should still be rigor, and kids should be guided to explore topics they may not have known they were interested in. But, learning should still be damn near all play, all the time.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about Blended Learning.





16 Ways to Motivate Anyone

29 03 2015

By Todd B Kashdan Ph.D. | Mar 26, 2015

Synopsis

Moving beyond the notion of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

Siblings punch each other. It is a moral imperative to determine that day’s victor. As welts begin to form, as bruises begin to darken, as blood drenches the carpet, at some point, parents must intervene. How do you motivate a child to act more kindly to their biological roommate?

Employees will perform exceptionally. And when they do, how will you reward them as a sign of appreciation? How can you reward them in a way that sustains their momentum?

The majority of books on leadershipparenting, and psychology divide motivation into two types: extrinsic and intrinsic. This is a simple bullet point that offers a lot of mileage. We can consider the content of goals and the reasons for pursuing goals. For instance, your goals might be driven by “extrinsic” goal content (financial success, appearing attractive to others, being known or admired by many people) or “intrinsic” goal content (being fulfilled and having a very meaningful life, having close and caring relationships with others).  In several studies, scientists have shown that people who prioritize intrinsic over extrinsic goal content experience greater well-being. If people feel that they are the author of their own lives, pursuing goals that derive from deeply held interests (intrinsic), they devote more effort to these pursuits and end up more successful. In contrast, people who feel they are being controlled, following the rules and obligations held by others (extrinsic), show less persistence in pursuing their goals.

All of this makes sense and is based on sound research. I am suggesting that it is time to move to the next level. It is time to appreciate the complexity of how to motivate human beings. Knowing what motivates others is essential to establishing and maintaining effective relationships. This is going to sound trivial and obvious but nearly every person is motivated by different needs, at varying degrees, and at different times. If we want to influence and persuade other people, we need to know how a person priortizes their needs. A point expressed by Stephen Covey in his bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”

Mix these characters up, treat them all the same, and your influence is going to be unimpressive. The amount of pleasure and meaning that we experience in our lives can be traced to how effectively basic needs are satisfied. Reflect on these 3 questions for a moment.

1) What drives YOU to put in your best effort at work?

2) Would you work if you didn’t have to?

3) Is the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation enough to describe you or anyone else?

My guess is the answer to this last question is no. Deciding on whether to wake up at 6:30 A.M. for breakfast with two friendly and highly successful colleagues, my hope is that you could clarify the motives for going. A desire to form a deep connection? Curiosity about where the conversation might lead and what you could learn? An opportunity to showcase your creativity and intelligence? Don’t think of it as a battle between motives, instead, think of how you priortize them. Just as you can rank-order your motivation for waking up early to attend this social gathering, you can learn what needs your employee is trying to satisfy (that makes them tick), and how to get your kids attention.

In the pursuit of a rich, meaningful life, there is a growing body of science suggesting that our greatest values guide our behavior. Psychologist Steven Reiss argues that there are 16 core values/desires/motives. Knowing how we priortize them and how others do the same can explain a lot about why we do the things we do. More importantly, knowing how these 16 basic values are priortized can help us to motivate other people–whether we are interested in rewards or punishments. Here are the 16 in no particular order:

 

CURIOSITY – The desire for knowledge and experience.

ACCEPTANCE – The desire for inclusion.

ORDER – The desire for organization.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – The desire for the exercise of muscles.

HONOR – The desire to be loyal to one’s parents and heritage.

POWER – The desire to influence others.

INDEPENDENCE – The desire for self-reliance.

SOCIAL CONTACT – The desire for companionship.

FAMILY – The desire to raise one’s own children.

STATUS – The desire for social standing.

IDEALISM – The desire for social justice.

VENGEANCE – The desire to get even.

ROMANCE – The desire for intimate connection, sensuality, and sexuality.

EATING – The desire to consume food.

SAVING – The desire to collect things.

TRANQUILITY – The desire for emotional calm.

Just remember

  • People act in ways that express their values
  • Values predict behavior
  • People are not necessarily aware of their values
  • How we priortize values can change over time

If you truly want to motivate other people, learn about what motivates them. The values that describe someone best offer insight into the best way to mobilize their energy. Forego global, simple solutions.

To dig deeper, check out:

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin22, 280-287.

Reiss, S. (2004). Multifaceted nature of intrinsic motivation: The theory of 16 basic desires. Review of General Psychology8(3), 179-193.

Reiss, S., & Havercamp, S. (1996). The sensitivity theory of motivation: Implications for psychopathology. Behaviour Research and Therapy34, 621-632.

Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R., Deci, E., & Kasser, T. (2004). The independent effects of goal contents and motives on well-being: It’s both what you pursue and why you pursue it. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 475-486.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a public speaker, psychologist, and professor of psychology and senior scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.  His new book, The upside of your dark side: Why being your whole self – not just your “good” self – drives success and fulfillment is available from Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Booksamillion , Powell’s or Indie Bound. If you’re interested in speaking engagements or workshops, go to: toddkashdan.com.

– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/16_ways_to_motivate_anyone#sthash.jrDdu9Js.tVWA5Gw7.dpuf





Top 50 Chess Quotes of All Time

25 03 2015
E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00
50 greatest chess quotes of all time

Great quotes store big and important ideas in just a few words. They transport wisdom that great chess players have accumulated throughout decades of experience.This list of quotes is for those who is aiming for big success. These quotes will both motivate and educate you for becoming a better chess player.

1. “By the time a player becomes a Grandmaster, almost all of his training time is dedicated to work on this first phase. The opening is the only phase that holds out the potential for true creativity and doing something entirely new.” – Garry Kasparov
2. “When your house is on fire, you can’t be bothered with the neighbors. Or, as we say in chess, if your King is under attack, don’t worry about losing a pawn on the queenside.” – Garry Kasparov
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3. “By strictly observing Botvinnik’s rule regarding the thorough analysis of one’s own games, with the years I have come to realize that this provides the foundation for the continuos development of chess mastery.” – Garry Kasparov

4. “Chess continues to advance over time, so the players of the future will inevitably surpass me in the quality of their play, assuming the rules and regulations allow them to play serious chess. But it will likely be a long time before anyone spends 20 consecutive years as number, one as I did.” – Garry Kasparov
5. “You can’t overestimate the importance of psychology in chess, and as much as some players try to downplay it, I believe that winning requires a constant and strong psychology not just at the board but in every aspect of your life.” – Garry Kasparov

6. “I … have two vocations: chess and engineering. If I played chess only, I believe that my success would not have been significantly greater. I can play chess well only when I have fully convalesced from chess and when the ‘hunger for chess’ once more awakens within me.”  – Mikhail Botvinnik

7. “If you are going to make your mark among masters, you have to work far harder and more intensively, or, to put it more exactly, the work is far more complex than that needed to gain the title of Master.” – Mikhail Botvinnik

8. “Above all else, before playing in competitions a player must have regard to his health, for if he is suffering from ill-health he cannot hope for success. In this connection the best of all tonics is 15 to 20 days in the fresh air, in the country.”  – Mikhail Botvinnik

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Note: If you want to dramatically improve your chess simply studying Grandmaster’s games or solving tactics it not enough. In order to take your chess to the whole new level you need to work on all aspects of the game. That’s what we call a “combined approach”. We will combine 5 most important elements of chess into a single training session to build a good training habits and to make sure you can get out maximum results in minimum amount of time. You will get a access to 3 weeks of trainingwhere you will learn:

  • Tactics
  • Positional play
  • Attack on the king
  • Endgame technique
  • Classical games analysis
  • Training secrets, self-evaluation, blunder avoidance
  • and much more

9. “If you are weak in the endgame, you must spend more time analysing studies; in your training games you must aim at transposing to endgames, which will help you to acquire the requisite experience.” – Mikhail Botvinnik

10. “My forte was the middlegame. I had a good feeling for the critical moments of the play. This undoubtedly compensated for my lack of opening preparation and, possibly, not altogether perfect play in the endgame. In my games things often did not reach the endgame!” – Boris Spassky

11. “The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak.” – Boris Spassky

12. “Of course, analysis can sometimes give more accurate results than intuition but usually it’s just a lot of work. I normally do what my intuition tells me to do. Most of the time spent thinking is just to double-check.” – Magnus Carlsen

13. “I started by just sitting by the chessboard exploring things. I didn’t even have books at first, and I just played by myself. I learnt a lot from that, and I feel that it is a big reason why I now have a good intuitive understanding of chess.” – Magnus Carlsen

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14. “Self-confidence is very important. If you don’t think you can win, you will take cowardly decisions in the crucial moments, out of sheer respect for your opponent. You see the opportunity but also greater limitations than you should. I have always believed in what I do on the chessboard, even when I had no objective reason to. It is better to overestimate your prospects than underestimate them.” – Magnus Carlsen

15. “I didn’t picture myself as even a grandmaster, to say nothing of aspiring to the chess crown. This was not because I was timid – I wasn’t – but because I simply lived in one world, and the grandmasters existed in a completely different one. People like that were not really even people, but like gods or mythical heroes.” – Anatoly Karpov

16. “By all means examine the games of the great chess players, but don’t swallow them whole. Their games are valuable not for their separate moves, but for their vision of chess, their way of thinking.” – Anatoly Karpov

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17. “The great mobility of the King forms one of the chief characteristics of all endgame strategy. In the middlegame the King is a mere “super”, in the endgame on the other hand – on of the “principals”. We must therefore develop him, bring him nearer to the fighting line.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

18. “If in a battle, I seize a bit of debatable land with a handful of soldiers, without having done anything to prevent an enemy bombardment of the position, would it ever occur to me to speak of a conquest of the terrain in question? Obviously not. Then why should I do so in chess?” – Aron Nimzowitsch

19. “When I today ask myself whence I got the moral courage, for it takes moral courage to make a move (or form a plan) running counter to all tradition, I think I may say in answer, that it was only my intense preoccupation with the problem of the blockade which helped me to do so.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

20. “It is a well known phenomenon that the same amateur who can conduct the middle game quite creditably, is usually perfectly helpless in the end game. One of the principal requisites of good chess is the ability to treat both the middle and end game equally well.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

21. “In mathematics, if I find a new approach to a problem, another mathematician might claim that he has a better, more elegant solution. In chess, if anybody claims he is better than I, I can checkmate him.” – Emanuel Lasker

22. “By positional play a master tries to prove and exploit true values, whereas by combinations he seeks to refute false values … A combination produces an unexpected re-assessment of values.” – Emanuel Lasker

23. “He who has a slight disadvantage plays more attentively, inventively and more boldly than his antagonist who either takes it easy or aspires after too much. Thus a slight disadvantage is very frequently seen to convert into a good, solid advantage.” – Emanuel Lasker

24. “A player, as the world believed he was, he was not, his studious temperament made that impossible; and thus he was conquered by a player and in the end little valued by the world, he died.” – Emanuel Lasker

25. “It is no secret that any talented player must in his soul be an artist, and what could be dearer to his heart and soul than the victory of the subtle forces of reason over crude material strength! Probably everyone has his own reason for liking the King`s Gambit, but my love for it can be seen in precisely those terms.” – David Bronstein

26. “It is annoying that the rules of chess do not allow a pawn to take either horizontally or backwards, but only forwards … This psychological tuning is ideal for attacking purposes, but what about for defence?”  – David Bronstein

27. “If you have made a mistake or committed an inaccuracy there is no need to become annoyed and to think that everything is lost. You have to reorientate yourself quickly and find a new plan in the new situation.” – David Bronstein

28. “When you play against an experienced opponent who exploits all the defensive resources at his command you sometimes have to walk time and again, along the narrow path of ‘the only move’.” – David Bronstein

29. “Chess is not for the faint-hearted; it absorbs a person entirely. To get to the bottom of this game, he has to give himself up into slavery. Chess is difficult, it demands work, serious reflection and zealous research.” – Wilhelm Steinitz

30. “The task of the positional player is systematically to accumulate slight advantages and try to convert temporary advantages into permanent ones, otherwise the player with the better position runs the risk of losing it.” – Wilhelm Steinitz

31. “Whenever Black succeeds in assuming the initiative and maintaining it to a successful conclusion, the sporting spirit of the chess lover feels gratified, because it shows that the resources of the game are far from being exhausted.” – Savielly Tartakower

32. “No one ever won a game by resigning.” – Savielly Tartakower

33. “It is always better to sacrifice your opponents’ men.” – Savielly Tartakower

34. “The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made.” – Savielly Tartakower

35. “A thorough understanding of the typical mating continuations makes the most complicated sacrificial combinations leading up to them not only difficult, but almost a matter of course.” – Savielly Tartakower

fischer

36. “All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.” – Bobby Fischer

37.
“A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will is required to become a great chess player.”  – Bobby Fischer

38. “Tactics flow from a superior position.”  – Bobby Fischer

39. “To play for a draw, at any rate with white, is to some degree a crime against chess.” – Mikhail Tal

40. “I have always thought it a matter of honour for every chess player to deserve the smile of fortune.” – Mikhail Tal

41. “Naturally, the psychological susceptibility of a match participant is significantly higher than a participant in a tournament, since each game substantially changes the over-all position.” – Mikhail Tal

42. “I go over many games collections and pick up something from the style of each player.” – Mikhail Tal

43. “Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.” – Max Euwe

euwe

44.
“If it is true that a player’s style is his person, then everyone plays as he is intended to by nature. I am naturally cautious, and I altogether dislike situations which involve risk.” – Tigran Petrosian

45. “In almost any position the boundless possibilities of chess enable a new or at least a little-studied continuation to be found.” – Tigran Petrosian

46. “They knock me for my draws, for my style, they knock me for everything I do.” – Tigran Petrosian

47. “Even the most distinguished players have in their careers experienced severe disappointments due to ignorance of the best lines or suspension of their own common sense.” – Tigran Petrosian

48. “In some places words have been replaced by symbols which, like amulets from a witch’s bag, have the power to consume the living spirit of chess.” – Tigran Petrosian

49. “It is easy to play against the young players, for me they are like an open book.” – Tigran Petrosian

50. “They knock me for my draws, for my style, they knock me for everything I do.” – Tigran Petrosian





The Genius Of Raising Brilliant Kids: A Conversation With Jack Andraka’s Parents

19 03 2015

Jack Andraka at The White House

He’s just an everyday kid, 16 year-old Jack Andraka

He’s the son of an engineer and anesthetist who has vaulted his way onto the main stage of science and innovation. Jack’s work on developing a rapid, highly sensitive and inexpensive test for cancer has made headlines around the world. I interviewed Jack in Feburary and Forbes editor Bruce Upbin profiled his innovations in June 2012. Over the past few months Jack has traveled the world, rubbing shoulders with political and scientific dignitaries at such distinguished places such as TED Conferences, The Royal Society of Medicine in London and even The White House.

But with all the news and excitement about Jack’s scientific achievement, I was interested in learning what really drove him and more about two of the proudest people on the planet–his parents, Steve and Jane Andraka. As it turns out, this story isn’t only about Jack (and his parents). But about the entire family and how Steve and Jane raised two remarkable boys. While Jack has taken the spotlight recently, his older brother Luke has made quite a name for himself. Luke, 18 years old, was the 4th place national winner of the SSP middle school science competition, MIT Think Award winner, 2 time Intel science fair finalist and winner of the $96,000 Sierra Nevada Scholarship at the Intel science fair for his method of treating acid mine drainage.

The Andraka children seemed to be on to something. And that something apparently hinged, in part, upon one key insight from Steve Andraka, ”Teach your kids that most problems in this world are really opportunities in disguise, and innovation comes from discontent.”
Another Andraka family adventure

I had the chance to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Andraka and found the entire conversation fascinating and enlightening. They broke down their success into two sections–logical and practical. So, moms and dads, here you go…

The ‘theory’ of raising brilliant kids

Independent learning. I almost always have them learn by doing and by making controlled mistakes. And in the process, they think through the problem. When they are stuck on a problem I come over and make them show me what they have done and most of the time they find their problem by just explaining to me what they have done. By explaining things, it makes them think deeper about it and this works with almost all of their problems.

A single-minded focus. Focusing on a particular project is very important in achieving higher goals. When you focus just on a specific goal or problem and ‘wrap your head around the goal’ it opens up all kinds of creativity and problem solving. It’s amazing when a child goes from a feeling of powerlessness to one of mastery.

Engage in your child’s project–even if it’s over your head. Both our children have eclipsed us in knowledge on specific topics and also with their mathematical skills. However growing up they have always known Dad to be the one who can help them with their Math. So, I follow along, ask questions and let the textbook guide some of our discussions. Essentially, I give support, show interest and direct them to use other resources. However, I always try to follow up with them and have them explain their progress. I found that showing an interest by listening, asking questions, encouraging research and reporting back teaches them to solve their questions, encourages them and teaches me something too. When the roles are reversed–I become the student and my child becomes the teacher–I know it’s a success.

Limit rules, encourage independence. We have ‘minimal rules’, but nothing that stifles creativity. Basically, you can sum it up simply: treat people with respect, do your homework be honest and try to be safe. Having too many rules burdens down the entire family and limits thinking.

The ‘practice’ of raising brilliant kids

Theory is fine for the text books. But Steve and Jane offered up some ‘rules to live by’ to help guide every mom and dad that wants to have their child to end up speaking or living in The White House.

Have your child do the thinking, limit how much you do for them in solving a problem. If you are the person wrapping your head around the problem and solving it, your child isn’t.

Ask as many questions as they ask you. With the wealth of knowledge on the internet have them start looking up answers and doing research.

Get them involved with the right peer activities. If they have a competitive side, encourage them to compete on math team or debate team or art competitions. Winning in these type things boosts self esteem. Also, see what other higher level competitions exist. Often, the school may not even know about these other competition. Remember, you are you child’s best advocate and resource. Don’t wait for the school to present your child with opportunities

Model the result you want.

Build things and be creative! It’s not all crunching numbers.
Be involved and stay connected. Every day we ask our children what they did in school.

We also use the parent connect tool to always know how they are doing and to say on top of issues and challenges.
Set early expectations. Our kids know that they are going to college. They have known this since they were in elementary school. We have bookcases of college guides, books on best colleges, how to get in certain schools and other information. It’s a process that starts early.
Success needs to be a shared goal–shared by the family and celebrated by the family. If your child is finding success in an area that you may not be familiar with, you still must encourage and support them. Success brings confidence and your support means everything.
Live outside the box. Petty rules stifle creativity. You can tell you child to think outside of the box, but if you have boxed them in their entire life, they have no creative reference point to begin with.
Teach your kids that most problems in this world are really opportunities in disguise. Innovation comes from discontent. Start when your child is young and keep a list of problems to be pondered or solved. Then, when it is time to do a science fair or other project, you’re ready to go! That’s been very successful for both our children.

Unlocking the genius within?

It seems obvious to me that empowerment is central to this family. Throughout their lives, Jack and Luke’s parents provided the tools needed to unleash their creative potential. This was done, step by step, methodically – yet never in a stifling way. They provided the resources and their children stepped up to the challenge and discovered a worthy purpose. We are now all the beneficiaries of the Andrakas’ excellence in parenting – and for their impact on the world of science and medicine.

To date, Jack and Luke show no sign of slowing down! Jack is a sophomore at North county High school, however he has been spending a lot of time out of school with speaking engagements and working on his next project. Jack is very self disciplined and has been able to self study most of the material that he would be doing in the class room and keep up with the homework. He then takes the tests when he is in school. Jack is reviewing his options for finishing his high school and is being courted by colleges. Luke is a senior at North County High School, and will be graduated this June. He has been accepted by Virginia Tech in their engineering program where he plans to pursue a degree in materials engineering.





Instill a Love of Math

22 02 2015

By Laura Lewis Brown

Family playing checkersParents are bombarded with messages to read with their children, but it’s rare to hear about the importance of doing math with them. Here are some helpful tips on why and how to instill a love of math in your children.

Early Math Matters
We may take for granted that our children will inevitably learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but early math lessons establish the base for the rest of their thinking lives. “Mathematics that kids are doing in kindergarten, first, second and third grades lays the foundation for the work they are going to do beyond that,” says Linda Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). “They are learning beyond just counting and numbers.” That’s why it’s so important to help children love math while they are still young. Parents can build on those first preschool lessons by counting with their children, asking them to look for patterns and recognize shapes, then moving on to numbers, Gojak says.

The goal should be to make math “real” and meaningful by pointing it out in the world around you. That could include checking and comparing prices at the grocery store, driving down the street counting mailboxes, reading recipes, calculating coupons, or even measuring food or drink at the dinner table. Kevin Mahoney, math curriculum coordinator at Pennacre Country Day School in Wellesley, Mass., says when his children were little, his wife kept a small measuring tape in her pocketbook. While they were waiting for their order at a restaurant, the children would measure different items on the table.

Just as you encourage your early reader to look for familiar letters, ask your child to watch for math, regarding math as highly as you do reading. “Every parent knows that it’s a good idea to read to your child every night, but they should also realize the importance of talking about mathematical situations with children every day,” says Mahoney.

So What If It’s Hard?
What if you hated math as a child? Parents should try to set aside their distaste for math and encourage their children as much as possible. Young children are eager to learn. “It’s hard to learn to talk or walk. But they don’t care,” says Sue VanHattum, a community college math teacher in Richmond, Ca., who blogs about math learning on http://www.mathmamawrites.blogspot.com. “They just push themselves over their limits. They are going to come at math with that same attitude.”

Avoid talking negatively about math, even if you have no need for trigonometry in your daily life. “A lot of people will only joke that they cannot do math or announce publicly, ‘I’m not a math person.’ When a parent does that in front of a child, it suggests that math’s not important,” says Char Forsten, education consultant and writer, who urges parents to create that desire to learn by constantly screening the environment for math. “Have you seen any good math lately?” she likes to ask students.

If your child believes that math doesn’t really matter, he’s not going to be as open to learn. “Attitude has everything to do with learning. You can’t make anyone learn. If a child has learned not to love math, if they don’t love math, and aren’t willing to learn, you have to deal with that first,” Forsten says.

If you are stuck on how to foster math enthusiasm, talk to your child’s teacher about some ways to support math learning at home. There may be a new game that you have never heard of, which both you and your child will love.

Play Games
With so many facts and figures to memorize and apply to math problems, children learn early that math is something that requires work. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun; keep the pleasure in math by playing games with your children. Many games, even the ones adults play, rely on math. With countless websites, computer games and phone apps, parents have endless options, but don’t forget about the nondigital games you loved as a child. The classics that require manipulating cards and game pieces, calculating along the way, may have the same appeal for your kids as they did for you. One game worth considering is Chutes and Ladders. A 2009 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Maryland found that preschoolers who played the game improved math skills significantly compared to those in the study who played a different board game or did nonmath tasks.

As you play with your kids, try to tap into your own love for math. When you play Trivial Pursuit, you are using math to determine how many spaces you need to get to the next wedge or predict which category you can answer best. The game doesn’t have to be about math, but should involve it. If you have a good game store in your area, stop by and ask the salespeople for help. Some of VanHattum’s favorite games really push logic, which is the basis of math, and get children thinking visually. Check out Link, SET, Rush Hour, Blokus and Spot It, to name a few.

“Playing games is a great family activity,” VanHattum says. “The more you have a tradition of playing games, the easier it is to bring in other games you like.” So while you may not be passionate about your child’s latest board game, you can work up to another game you like. Try to make the game personal to your family by playing it in your own special way. “Mathematicians make up their own rules,” VanHattum says. “It’s really important to be open to making up your own games. Change the rules. ‘In our family, we play the game this way.’”

Flexing Math Muscles
Riding a bike, swimming in the deep end, and playing an instrument are just examples of our favorite childhood activities that require practice to master. So does math.

“Math is an intellectual muscle building; it’s crucial for fully developing a child’s potential,” Mahoney says. “Those muscles can atrophy. If school is the only place you do math, then it becomes something you only do at school. Then you don’t even think about using it in real life.” So brush off those negative feelings about math and instill enthusiasm. Math will play a role in your child’s life forever.

“It’s important to remember that those basics are essential for later learning. A lot of the stuff we learn in math we apply in different ways later,” says Gojak, who emphasizes the thinking skills that math provides. “I might not have to worry about what an isosceles triangle is, but it’s still an important part of education.”

As they grow, kids will learn that they are willing to work hard at something they love. It may just be math. Either way, remember that your child does not have to excel at math to enjoy it. “It doesn’t matter if they’re good, it matters whether they like it,” VanHattum says.

Add Math to Everyday Fun with these Activities:





The real reason why the US is falling behind in math

16 02 2015

By Tara Holm FEBRUARY 12, 2015

If my seatmate on an airplane asks me what I do for a living, I tell the truth: I’m a mathematician. This generally triggers one of two responses. Either I’m told that I must be brilliant. . . or I hear about the person’s inability to balance a checkbook. The truth is, I’m not brilliant, just persistent, and I hate balancing my checkbook. Both responses, however, point to a fundamental misunderstanding about what mathematics is supposed to do and its current — and unfortunate — trajectory in American education.

Calculators have long since overthrown the need to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division by hand. We still teach this basic arithmetic, though, because we want students to grasp the contours of numbers and look for patterns, to have a sense of what the right answer might be. But what happens next in most schools is the road ­to ­math­ Hades: the single ­file death march that leads towards calculus.  We are pretty much the only country on the planet that teaches math this way, where students are forced to memorize formulas and procedures. And so kids miss the more organic experience of playing with mathematical puzzles, experimenting and searching for patterns, finding delight in their own discoveries. Most students learn to detest — or at best, endure — math, and this is why our students are falling behind their international peers.

When students memorize the Pythagorean theorem or the quadratic formula and apply it with slightly different numbers, they actually get worse at the bigger picture. Our brains are slow to recognize information when it is out of context. This is why realworld math problems are so much harder — and more fascinating — than the contrived textbook exercises. What I’ve found instead is that a student who has developed the ability to turn a realworld scenario into a mathematical problem, who is alert to false reasoning, and who can manipulate numbers and equations is likely far better prepared for college math than a student who has experienced a year of rote calculus.

What can we do as parents? At my house, we sometimes talk through simple logic puzzles over dinner. There are lots of good examples on the Internet, even pirate puzzles to please my son. Sudoku, despite claims to the contrary, is all about logical problem solving. Or how about family board games night once a week? I’m not talking Candyland­style games, all luck and no skill. Some favorites in my household include logic puzzles like Rush Hour and board games like TransAmerica, Clue, and Carcassonne. Of course,there’s also always checkers and chess. These games teach kids to think logically several steps ahead, all while having fun. And they are far more effective than the SAT prep booklets which litter the homes of high school juniors each year. I’m not down on mathematical training. I’m just down on the persistent memorization approach, which works your intellectual muscles about as effectively as lifting loaves of Wonder Bread helps build your biceps. We are failing our children if all we teach them are dry formulas. The benefits just don’t add up.

Tara Holm is an associate professor of math at Cornell University and a 2015 public voices fellow of the OpEd Project.





What Motivates Teachers?

19 01 2015

| July 30, 2014 |

Teachers: George Cronin, Dawn Digsby, Todd Beard, and Karen North. (Katrina Schwartz)

A recent Gallup poll of 170,000 Americans — 10,000 of whom were teachers — found that teaching is the second most satisfying profession (after medicine). Ironically, the sameGallup poll found that in contrast to their overall happiness with their jobs, teachers often rate last or close to the bottom for workplace engagement and happiness.

“Of all the professions we studied in the U.S., teachers are the least likely to say that their opinions count and the least likely to say that their supervisor creates an open and sharing environment,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, at the Next New World Conference.

This is a troubling trend at a time when schools need to continue to attract high quality educators. “If the perception in our country is that teaching is not a great profession to go into, we certainly aren’t going to be encouraging really talented young people to be thinking about the profession of teaching,” Busteed said in an interview with Stephen Smith on the American RadioWorks podcast.

That will be especially problematic as baby boomer teachers begin to retire. “What our research reveals is an important nuance that teachers rate their lives overall very highly; they love their lives,” Busteed said. “They love their work. They love what they do in terms of helping encourage young people.”

But they often dislike their bosses, the policies they must abide by, the tests that govern their lives and the low pay and lack of respect often shown by other adults. “It’s a big opportunity to try and get this right across school systems, but also a tragedy in that all these people who otherwise would be off the charts with their performance if we could just improve their workplace environment,” Busteed said.

MindShift readers discussed openly what motivates them to keep teaching, as well as what changes they’d make to the system.

“I’m motivated by the curiosity of my students,” replied Lewis Marshall A. Elaine, in a Facebook call-out to teachers to weigh in. “Being able to collaborate with more teachers who possess these qualities would make my job better: professionalism, positivity, and competency.”

Teacher Dana Smith wrote: “The students are my motivation: love those crazy middle-schoolers! A better salary and being able to teach without headaches and heartaches from mandatory testing, nonsensical paperwork/computer work, and crazed administrators would make my job perfect.”

Vix Cee Kreidel wrote: “I am motivated to teach because I believe that every child deserves to have someone who believes in them. I love to watch the light bulb go off in a child as their eyes light up when they have an idea or ‘get’ something. Teaching would be easier if I got paid more to make up for all the things I buy for my classroom. Also if we were held accountable in other ways besides the test.”

We talked to educators from across the country, some at the recent ISTE conference, about what they love about their jobs and what they’d do to improve their work environment. Listen to their stories.





Who Wants to Know? Use Student Questions to Drive Learning

13 01 2015

by SUZIE BOSS

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: JANUARY 13, 2015 | UPDATED: JANUARY 13, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. considered this to be life’s most persistent and urgent question: “What are you doing for others?” As we approach the holiday that honors his legacy, here’s another question worth pondering: How many of your students know how to ask persistent and urgent questions of their own?

Knowing how to formulate a good question — and having the courage to ask it — is a skill with profound social justice implications. Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, founders of the Right Question Institute, first became interested in questioning techniques when they were working with parents in a low-income community. Parents told them they didn’t participate in their children’s education because they didn’t know what to ask.

That was more than 20 years ago. By now, Rothstein and Santana have taught question-formulation techniques everywhere from homeless shelters to adult literacy classes to community health centers. Patients take a more active role in their own care, it turns out, when they know how to ask doctors better questions. And people who have felt disenfranchised because of language barriers or low literacy levels can reengage as citizens by learning how to ask questions that matter to them.

In their important and accessible book, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, the co-authors outline a simple but powerful approach to put classroom questions where they belong: with students. Instead of organizing learning around teachers’ questions, they suggest letting students’ questions drive the learning experience. For many students, this means reconnecting with their innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the world.

The co-authors’ Question Formulation Technique is appropriate for any classroom. It unfolds in four steps, typically carried out in small groups of students and in response to a specific focus that the teacher has introduced:

  1. Ask as many questions as you can.
  2. Do not stop to judge, discuss, edit, or answer any question.
  3. Write down every question exactly as it was asked.
  4. Change any statements into questions.

In a recent article for Education Leadership, “The Right Answers,” Rothstein and Santana describe teachers using their technique to rekindle curiosity in classrooms ranging from elementary to high school, and in subjects as diverse as math, science, and social studies.

I’d argue that their approach belongs in the toolkit of any teacher implementing project-based learning. Inquiry is supposed to provide the oxygen for PBL. By starting with questions that students want to answer, PBL creates a need to know. When projects work well, that authentic inquiry is what delivers higher levels of engagement and puts students on the path to deeper learning.

But what if students don’t exhibit a strong “need to know” in response to an entry event or driving question? What if they don’t launch into a project with a host of questions that they are burning to answer? What if that supposedly captivating driving question is met with….silence?

The problem might be that the project focus doesn’t connect with students’ interests. Or, it might have to do with students forgetting what it means to be an active learner. If their prior experience in school has been passive, if their previous experience with questions has been limited to responding to what teachers ask, they may need a refresher course in curiosity.

Along with the excellent resources from Rothstein and Santana, you can learn more about questioning strategies in A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. Author Warren Berger shows how artful questioning leads to better thinking in a range of endeavors, from business to social activism. On an accompanying blog, Berger posts“beautiful questions” posed by readers.

Recent examples that might get your students talking (and questioning): What if pizza was good for you? Why can’t the classroom be a coffee shop? What would happen if teenagers believed they deeply mattered to the world around them? As a quick write or warm-up for a PBL experience, you might have students submit their own beautiful questions to the author.

As students get more confident asking questions in class, they’ll be better prepared to take their questioning attitude into the world. PBL often creates opportunities for students to engage with community members and experts. Make sure students know how to frame those conversations with the questions that they care about answering.

How do you encourage students to ask questions that matter to them? Please share your strategies in the comments section below.





Strategies for Getting and Keeping the Brain’s Attention

12 01 2015

By DONNA WILSON

JANUARY 6, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University.

The human brain has an amazing capacity to wield a potent cognitive strategy: selective attention. When we consciously focus our attention on something, we bring the power of the prefrontal cortex to this endeavor. By honing our ability to focus attention at will, we can more effectively screen out two types of distractions:

  1. Input through our sensory organs
  2. Our emotional responses.

Distractions via sensory input may be the easier of the two to block, according to Daniel Goleman in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. As educators, we may tend to notice the impact of sights, sounds, and touch points that draw students’ focus away from lessons and learning activities. But while all of the sensory stimulations in the environment are readily obvious, emotions can be even “louder” when it comes to diverting attention in unwanted directions and making it hard to focus on learning.

Which Neural Network Do We Activate?

To help students learn to maintain focused attention, we can guide them to wire their brains for staying the course even during times of emotional upheaval, remaining level-headed, and riding the emotional waves of life. As with other skills, this cognitive strategy comes with conscious recognition and deliberate practice.

Brain research summarized in a briefing paper from the Dana Foundationindicates that attention activates not one but several neural networks, including an alerting network that signals the brain about incoming sensory stimuli and an orienting network that directs the brain to take notice of the source of the stimuli. A third network, referred to as executive attention, enables us to choose which of the stimuli competing for our attention we will focus our thinking on. In effect, executive attention functions as a control tower for guiding the brain’s higher-level cognitive processes to land on specific tasks and information.

Applying this research, scientists suggest a different way of thinking about and addressing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The “deficit” in its label suggests inaccurately that students diagnosed with ADHD have a shortage of attention, when in fact the problem may be that they have difficulty in allocating their attention on learning in the classroom.

Cognitive Strategies

This shift in emphasis about where problems with attention may lie, when combined with recent neuroscientific findings, suggests that explicit instruction on regulating students’ attention may provide them with a valuable cognitive strategy to support self-directed learning. The focus of this instruction is on guiding students to understand that they can consciously direct and maintain their attention on learning tasks and that, with regular thoughtful practice, they can improve their ability to attend to learning.

1. Shine the spotlight on attention.

Introduce the subject of attention by asking students to share examples of being so focused on an activity that they’ve blocked out distractions around them, such as getting lost in a good book or movie, practicing the piano, or perfecting their jump shot in basketball. In the same way, they can purposefully focus their attention on learning, and shift their attention from one learning task to another throughout the school day. The prefrontal cortex is in charge of focusing attention, and students can train their brains to better control their attention. Brainstorm ways that regulating attention can improve learning, such as:

  • Paying attention to a lesson instead of being distracted by noise in the hallway or something happening in the schoolyard outside the window
  • Switching from learning one subject to the next or from one class to another
  • Putting aside a lunchtime disagreement with a friend to focus on class in the afternoon
  • Completing a homework assignment before turning on TV or a video game
  • “Turning off” worries about doing well on a test in order to stay focused and remember everything studied
  • Identifying what’s most important right now and paying attention only to that most important thing.

2. Emphasize that focusing attention is a skill that can be learned and improved.

Like any other skill, students can develop their attention for learning through regular practice and training. Give them good reasons for training their attention — people who can take charge of their attention are better at remembering things and figuring out what new information means and how they can use it. They are better at metacognition and higher-order thinking processes. For practical tools to increase student attention and other thinking skills, check out these suggestions.

3. Pace your teaching with students’ attention.

While attention spans vary between individuals, we’ve found that a useful rule of thumb is to focus on presenting new information in roughly eight-minute “chunks.” Students under age eight may benefit from even shorter chunks of lessons and learning activities. In our book BrainSMART: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning, we suggest the acronym CRAVE as a way to remember five other strategies for keeping students’ attention focused on learning:

  • Build curiosity for learning with “teasers” that get students interested in a lesson.
  • Look for ways to make lessons relevant to students’ lives.
  • Ask questions to engage students in learning and inquiry.
  • Remember that variety is the spice of attention — a mix of learning activities helps keep students engaged.
  • Evoke emotions. Just as emotions can be distracting, they can also be used to enhance attention by making a lesson or learning activity more interesting.

Advertisers use these same strategies to grab consumers’ attention, so you might find inspiration for ways to adapt them to your lessons in a TV ad or on the side of a city bus! Keep this in mind as you guide students to improve their selective attention: The first step toward learning is paying attention.

Research

Wilson, D. L., & Conyers, M. A. (2011). BrainSMART: 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning. Orlando, FL: BrainSMART.





5 Math Games Every Classroom Needs to Play

12 01 2015

Guest post by Leigh Langton


Hey guys! It’s Leigh from The Applicious Teacher! I am super excited to be blogging at Corkboard Connections today. I’m sharing a practice that I use to help increase my students’ engagement and number sense during my math block.

Do you play games in your classroom? Wait… what?! No time? Well… you should make time! Especially during your math time. To me, math and games go together like Nutella and pretzels. Delicious separate, but amazing together.

As a third grade teacher, I know how limited our time can be, so I am here to share with you 5 math games you should take the time to play this year!  All of these games are fun, easy, and require little to no prep. They are math games that I’ve played for years with my second graders. When I moved up to third, I was able to easily modify these games for my new “big kids”.

First up… 100’s Game

This game can be played in a k-5 classroom. It is perfect for building number sense and it’s only prerequisite is that students can count. There’s no supplies needed to play and my kids loved playing this as a “brain-break” before math.

Here’s how to play… Have your class stand in a circle. Moving in a clockwise direction, have the students count out loud until they get to a hundred. The person who says, “100” sits down. The last person standing, WINS!

The idea is simple, but can be modified for your students. In second grade we’d count by 5’s,10’s, and 25’s (to help with money later on in the year). For third, we count the multiples of numbers. For numbers that don’t have a multiple of 100, I choose the last number in the sequence of 12 as the “end number.”

Other Variations 
Students sit down on a certain multiples (like the multiples of 7) Students don’t say the multiple. Students can count by ones to a hundred, but all the multiples of say, 4, are “off limits.” If a student says them, they sit down. You could also change it to student don’t say the divisors (perfect for those 4th/5th graders who need more practice with their facts!)
101 and Out…
 

 

This paper and pencil game works well in second to fifth grade classrooms and can be played by teams of students (like boys against girls) or in pairs. To play you will need a sheet of paper, a pencil, and one dice. The object of the game is to score as close to 101 without going over or “out.”

To play, students take turns rolling the dice. As they roll, they can either take the number as a one or a ten. For example, if a student rolls a 5, they could take it as a 5 or a 50.  Students keep a running record of their total as they play.

I love how the kids start to form a strategy for what numbers they want to roll next. It’s a great way to build mental math strategies. To introduce this game, I usually play it as, “The Teacher vs. The Class”. This allows time for modeling while keeping the kids in on the action. What class doesn’t love beating the teacher? They always want to play again if I win the round.

This game works best in longer stretches, so multiple rounds can be played. I usually like to use it at the beginning of the year as a class game before math centers. It then becomes an easy and fun game for the kiddos to play during math centers.

Back 2 Back
 

 

Seriously, hands down, my class’ favorite game to play! This game is perfect for inside recess as the whole class can play at once and everyone is excited for the game. This game requires some “brain sweat”, so it works well for grades 2-5. There are two different versions of this game. Supplies needed are minimal:  a writing surface, writing utensils, and someone who is quick with their math facts for a “caller.”

The object of the game is to guess the other player’s number before they guess yours. To play, two students come up to the board and stand back to back (hence the name). This allows for the students to write on the board, but blocks their view of the other person’s number.

The “Caller” states, “Numbers Up”. This signals the two students write a number of their choice on the board. I usually play with numbers 2-9 to keep kiddos from dwelling in the 0’s and 1’s easy train, but you can play with numbers as high or as low as needed for your group of kids.

The caller then states the sum (for younger students) or product (3rd-5th) of the two numbers.  The students use their understanding of math facts to figure out what they other person’s number is when added or multiplied by their number. The player to say the other person’s number first wins the round. The “loser” gets to choose the next person to come to the board. Please be warned… this game can get a little rowdy as students win and lose rounds and somehow the teacher always gets pulled up to “clear out” a player who’s been up a little too long… But it’s a lot of fun and well worth the 10-20 minutes! Beats the repetitious practice drills of flashcards!

Guess My Number

This next game is very versatile and can be modified in so many ways! It can be played in kindergarten all the way through 5th grade classrooms. To play, you need a number chart and a dry erase marker. This game can be played whole group, in pairs or in small groups of 3-4.

To begin, one student chooses a number. The other players try to guess the number by asking a series of questions. The student crosses off numbers it can’t be and circles numbers it could. The person who guesses the right number, wins and gets to choose the next number.

The best part of this game is that it can be played with laminated personal hundreds charts in small groups.

It can also be played as a whole group game using  a large chart.

For third grade, I encourage the use of question clues like “Is it a multiple of 5? Or greater than 70?” To introduce the game, I usually model crossing out numbers as students ask questions about the numbers and help link the clues to finding the right number.

For a kindergarten or first grade classroom, you may want to play with a number line with numbers 1-20.  Then, students could ask if the number is bigger or smaller than numbers within that range.  A 4th or 5th grade classroom can beef up the game with question clues like, “Is it divisible by 3?” or “Is it a multiple of 5?” The possibilities are endless! Time range to play can be from 5 minutes to 20 minutes and can be used as an inside recess game or a quick brain break before or after a lesson.

Math Fact Top It!

 

 

This last game works well in 1st through 5th grade classrooms and is best played in groups of 2-4 students. All that is needed to play are math fact flash cards. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication or division cards. It just depends on where your students are in their math skills. I like to think of this game as “War for the Classroom,” as the rules for the traditional card game apply to this math fact version.

To play, students divide the flash cards evenly among all players. Then, on the count of three, all students throw down a card. The card with the highest sum or product wins all the cards in play. This can be modified to lowest difference or quotient. If students have the same answer, then they play each other again, with the winner capturing all the cards in play. Students play until all the cards are won. The student depending on the flashcards you are using. with the most cards at the end wins. I find this game works best in math centers and is an easy way for students to practice their math facts in a new and unique way!

Download Freebie with Game Directions 
So go forth and play! Get your students engaged and learning in the new year! If you’re not sure you’ll remember all these games I shared today, I’ve compiled all the directions in one file for you. It’s available here at my TpT store!

Leigh is a wife, mother, and a second-grade- turned-third-grade teacher. She currently resides in Central Florida where she has been teaching for 7 years. When Leigh isn’t teaching or writing for her teacher blog, The Applicious Teacher, she enjoys snuggling up with a good book, running a few miles, or spending time with her family.

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7 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Chess

11 01 2015
7 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Chess E-mail
Written by Jenna Savage
Thursday, 25 October 2012 20:11
benifits of chessGrandmaster and world chess champion Bobby Fischer is famously quoted as saying, “Chess is life.”But can this two-player game, consisting of a square checkered board and playing pieces that are moved in different ways depending on their royal or military designation, benefit your mental and physical health?

Absolutely! Check out these seven surprising health benefits of playing chess and then consider your next move.

1. Grows dendrites:

benifits of chess

Dendrites conduct signals from the neuron cells in your brain to the neuron they happen to be attached to. Learning and playing a game like chess actually stimulates the growth of dendrites, which in turn increases the speed and improves the quality of neural communication throughout your brain. Increased processing power improves the performance of your body’s computer, the brain.

2. Exercises both sides of the brain:

benifits of chess

To get the most benefit from a physical workout, you need to exercise both the left and right sides of your body. Studies show that in order to play chess well, a player must develop and utilize his or her brain’s left hemisphere, which deals with object recognition, as well as right hemisphere, which deals with pattern recognition. Over time, thanks to the rules and technique involved in the game, playing chess will effectively exercise and develop not one but both sides of your brain.

3. Prevents Alzheimer’s disease:

benifits of chess

A medical study involving 488 seniors by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine shows that playing chess, which stimulates brain function, measurably decreases the risk of dementia and combats its symptoms. Instead of letting the brain deteriorate, keeping the brain functioning at a normal rate, especially with a mind exercising activity like chess, will reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as depression and anxiety.

4. Helps treat schizophrenia:

benifits of chess

Doctors at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in Bron, France, found that schizophrenic patients who were directed to play chess on a daily basis showed improvement in their condition when compared to patients who did not play. The chess-playing patients exhibited increased attention, planning, and reasoning abilities and interestingly, elected to continue playing chess as part of their daily routine, even after the study had concluded.

5. Improves children’s thinking and problem-solving skills:

benifits of chess

A child who is introduced to chess at a young age is likely to do better in school for years to come. Research shows that playing chess improves a child’s thinking, problem-solving, reading, and math scores. Educators and chess experts generally agree the second grade is the ideal time to introduce children to chess, although some as young as four or five may be ready to learn and play.

6. Builds self-confidence:

benifits of chess

With role models that include the young Norwegian grandmaster Mangus Carlsen as well as hip-hop producer RZA, the game of chess only seems to get cooler with every generation. But no matter what your age, playing chess will build up your self-esteem. When you play, you’re on your own, and if you lose, you have to take stock and analyze just where you went wrong. Playing and analyzing why you lost or won a game increases the level of mental strength and self-confidence that you bring to the world beyond the chessboard.

7. Helps with rehabilitation and therapy:

benifits of chess

Chess can be used to help rehabilitate patients recovering from stroke or a physically debilitating accident and as a form of therapy for those with autism or other developmental disabilities. Moving chess pieces across the board can help develop and fine tune a patient’s motor sills, while the mental effort required to play the game can improve cognitive and communication skills. Playing can also stimulate deep concentration and calm, helping to center and relax patients who are experiencing different degrees of anxiety.

Reprinted on TheChessWorld.com with a permission from the publisher. Original can be found here.





5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students

11 01 2015

My first year teaching a literacy coach came to observe my classroom. After the students left, she commented on how I asked the whole class a question, would wait just a few seconds, and then answer it myself. “It’s cute,” she added. Um, I don’t think she thought it was so cute. I think she was treading lightly on the ever-so shaky ego of a brand-new teacher while still giving me some very necessary feedback.

So that day, I learned about wait/think time. And also, over the years, I learned to ask better and better questions.

Many would agree that for inquiry to be alive and well in a classroom that, amongst other things, the teacher needs to be expert at asking strategic questions, and not only asking well-designed ones, but ones that will also lead students to questions of their own.

Keeping It Simple

I also learned over the years that asking straightforward, simply-worded questions can be just as effective as those intricate ones. With that in mind, if you are a new teacher or perhaps not so new but know that question-asking is an area where you’d like to grow, start tomorrow with these five:

#1. What do you think?

This question interrupts us from telling too much. There is a place for direct instruction where we give students information yet we need to always strive to balance this with plenty of opportunities for students to make sense of and apply that new information using their schemata and understanding.

#2. Why do you think that?

After students share what they think, this follow-up question pushes them to provide reasoning for their thinking.

#3. How do you know this?

When this question is asked, students can make connections to their ideas and thoughts with things they’ve experienced, read, and have seen.

#4. Can you tell me more?

This question can inspire students to extend their thinking and share further evidence for their ideas.

#5. What questions do you still have?

This allows students to offer up questions they have about the information, ideas or the evidence.

In addition to routinely and relentlessly asking your students questions, be sure to provide time for them to think. What’s best here, three seconds, five, or seven? Depending on their age, the depth of the material, and their comfort level, this think time will vary. Just push yourself to stay silent and wait for those hands to go up.

Also be sure to vary your tone so it genuinely sounds like a question and not a statement. When we say something in a declarative way, it is often with one tone and flat sounding. On the other hand, there is a lilt in our voice when we are inquiring and questioning.

To help student feel more comfortable and confident with answering questions and asking ones of their own, you can use this scaffold: Ask a question, pause, and then invite students to “turn and talk” with a neighbor first before sharing out with the whole group. This allows all to have their voices heard and also gives them a chance to practice their responses before sharing in front of the whole class.

How do you ask questions in your classroom? What works well with your students? Please share with us in the comment section below.





8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success

11 01 2015

 

 8 Pathways to Every Student’s Success by Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD

Teachers who transform lives understand not only how to teach curriculum, but also how children develop into capable, caring, and engaged adults. They see beyond quantitative measurements of success to the core abilities that help students live healthy, productive lives.

Famous educator Maria Montessori wisely remarked, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher. . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'”

The world has changed dramatically since the early 1900s when Montessori made her mark in education. Yet the same goal remains: scaffolding children toward self-sufficiency. How does this occur today, particularly when test results often seem more important than the development of a child ready to tackle career-life challenges?

In a nutshell, it happens when we understand how children and teens successfully mature to adulthood and how we impact their growth in key developmental areas. Based on decades of research in child and adolescent development, neuroscience, education, and psychology, we know that relationships with teachers, parents, and other supportive adults determine how school-age children acquire their personal guidance systems, full of interconnected abilities and pathways to success. When we envision those abilities as an internal compass, it’s easy to see how education and development go hand in hand — how children navigate successfully through school and life.

I created The Compass Advantage™ model as a visual, research-based, engaging way for families, schools, and communities to apply the principles of positive youth development. A framework for understanding why kids need these interconnected abilities and how they’re nurtured in different contexts, it’s also a call to act on behalf of children who deserve to live full, meaningful lives beyond external measures of success.

This is the first in a series of nine posts on how teachers develop these internal abilities in the classroom. Each month, we’ll take a deeper dive into one of these eight compass attributes:

Curiosity

Curiosity is the ability to seek and acquire new knowledge, skills, and ways of understanding the world. It is at the heart of what motivates kids to learn and what keeps them learning throughout their lives. Curiosity facilitates engagement, critical thinking, and reasoning.

We nurture children’s curiosity and other life-long learning skills when we encourage them to identify and seek answers to questions that pique their interests. When we help them recognize failure as an opportunity for exploration, we encourage experimentation and discovery. We help them understand the tenets of engaged learning when we recognize the different ways they explore — touching, tasting, climbing, smelling, etc. — and praise them for their perseverance in finding answers. When we show them how parts connect and influence the whole of society, they discover that curiosity improves relationships, fuels innovation, and drives social change.

Sociability

Sociability is the joyful, cooperative ability to engage with others. It derives from a collection of social-emotional skills that help children understand and express feelings and behaviors in ways that facilitate positive relationships, including active listening, self-regulation, and effective communication.

We impact children’s sociability when we help them understand that the words they choose make a difference to the relationships they create. When we teach them that every social interaction is tied to an emotional reaction, we help them avoid impulsive behavior and think through difficult situations before acting. We also build their capacity for collaborative teamwork.

Resilience

Resilience is the ability to meet and overcome challenges in ways that maintain or promote well-being. It incorporates attributes like grit, persistence, initiative, and determination.

We build resilience when we push students gently to the edges of their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical comfort zones. Our support and encouragement as they take risks, overcome challenges, and grow from failure helps them learn to bounce back from life’s ups and downs.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to examine and understand who we are relative to the world around us. It’s developed through skills like self-reflection, meaning making, and honing core values and beliefs. It’s situated at “true south” on the compass to symbolize that introspection is about looking into ourselves. Self-awareness impacts children’s capacity to see themselves as uniquely different from other people.

We stimulate students’ self-awareness when we engage them in reflective conversations about values, beliefs, attitudes, and moral dilemmas. By encouraging them to understand and attend to their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical selves, we let them know that we value their full human potential.

Integrity

Integrity is the ability to act consistently with the values, beliefs, and principles that we claim to hold. It’s about courage, honesty, and respect in one’s daily interactions — and doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

We shape children’s integrity by treating them with respect and dignity, and listening to their feelings and concerns without judgment. When we praise students for demonstrating their values, beliefs, and principles through actions, we remind them of their value as ethical human beings, beyond a grade or test score.

Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is the ability to find and use available resources to achieve goals, problem solve, and shape the future. It draws on skills like planning, goal setting, strategic thinking, and organizing.

We encourage students to be resourceful when we set high expectations and support them to accomplish their goals. When we teach them to be strategic thinkers and adaptable problem solvers, they learn to live without rigid rules or preconceived ideas.

Creativity

Creativity is the ability to generate and communicate original ideas and appreciate the nature of beauty. It fosters imagination, innovation, and a sense of aesthetics.

We inspire creativity when we encourage young people to express themselves through writing, poetry, acting, photography, art, digital media, unstructured play, etc. When we notice and praise them for thinking outside the box and taking risks, their imaginations blossom.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognize, feel, and respond to the needs and suffering of others. It facilitates the expression of caring, compassion, and kindness. It’s situated at “true north” on the compass to symbolize the outward impact of educating young citizens committed to creating a just, sustainable world.

We influence children’s abilities to care for others beyond themselves by creating meaningful relationships with them, ensuring that they are seen, felt, and understood regardless of how they learn. When we expose them to different worldviews, engage them with community projects, and bring service learning into the classroom, we develop greater empathy and compassion.

The Compass Advantage views education and child development as integrated processes nurtured through the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers, and out-of-school programs. When we attend to the development of these eight abilities, the results are transformative. Not only do children become lifelong learners, they become what Maria Montessori envisioned — self-sufficient navigators of their own lives.





Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

11 01 2015

by Luba Vangelova

Flickr/Marko

Entrepreneurship is often associated with people who assume the risk of starting a business venture for financial gain. However, entrepreneurs exist in many forms: They may be writers, carpenters, computer programmers, school principals or fundraisers, to name just a few examples.

What they have in common is an “entrepreneurial mindset” that enables them to see opportunities for improvement, take initiative and collaborate with others to turn their ideas into action. Everyone is born with some propensity for entrepreneurship, which at its core is about solving problems creatively, according to Yong Zhao, a professor at the University of Oregon’s College of Education. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.”

Unfortunately, the current education system doesn’t support the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, Zhao says, because of its reliance on standards, tests and a prescribed curriculum, which are all fundamentally incompatible with entrepreneurial thinking. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between countries’ academic test scores and entrepreneurship levels, and between years of schooling and entrepreneurship levels.

“Students are treated like employees of a big company, who don’t bear the risk if the company fails,” he says. “They are paid with grades and are not treated as being responsible for their learning.”

Instead of building on existing education reform plans, such as Common Core, Zhao supports an altogether different education paradigm to prepare children to thrive in our rapidly changing world, which will put a premium on entrepreneurship in all fields of endeavor.

A mashup of democratic and project-based learning would enhance the characteristics that lie at the heart of the entrepreneurial mindset. Zhao envisions schools that combine three essential elements: a freedom-based, non-coercive environment (as can be found at England’s democratic Summerhill School); enhanced project-based learning opportunities (such as those offered at New Technology High in Napa, California); and interaction with the larger world (as practiced by a program that allows students at the Cherwell School in Oxford, England, to collaborate with students at the Gcato School in Eastern Cape, South Africa).

A democratic school such as Summerhill shifts the responsibility to the learner and honors the natural variety that exists among individuals. As long as the students follow the general rules of behavior (which they themselves have developed on an equal footing with the staff), they are free to spend their time as they choose, taking only the classes that interest them. Nurturing what interests and excites each child benefits both society and the individual, Zhao says — the world needs all kinds of talents and skills, and this method effectively harnesses each child’s intrinsic motivation to learn what makes sense for him or her.This extends to whatever is needed to achieve their goals: “When a child has a reason to learn, the basics will be sought after, rather than imposed,” Zhao wrote in his previous book, “World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.” “If they are true basics, they are hard to avoid.”

This also allows children to build on their strengths, which is what successful entrepreneurs do, he says, instead of wasting their efforts to try and become like everyone else. “We should give all children confidence, and an alternative space to find something to be good at,” he says. “We overemphasize the deficits of children, and that’s not a good starting point. … If we let people flourish in their own ways, hopefully everyone will find something they want to do.”

But freedom in learning is not sufficient, Zhao says. The underlying environment must be characterized by flexibility, diversity (with access to a variety of adults and learning opportunities both inside and outside the school), and agency (so that students are “citizens of a democratic society who help to shape the society,” Zhao writes, instead of “subjects of a kingdom built by adults”). And then on top of that, “for learning how to be a disciplined, creative entrepreneur, you need a product, and you need practice,” he says.

So to the foundation of a democratic school, he would add the offerings of a New Technology High School, which takes project-based learning to another level. Most project-based learning environments use projects to teach prescribed content and skills, and the teacher retains most (if not all) of the control. Much more valuable is what Zhao calls the “entrepreneurial model” of project-based learning, which places the emphasis on the product rather than the project— students create products or services that meet authentic needs, and build knowledge and skills in the process. The teachers facilitate the process, but the students decide what products to make.

The third and final layer involves establishing a global consciousness, which can be done in numerous ways. It can include learning foreign languages, collaborating with students on the other side of the world (for example, the Cherwell School and Gcato School students jointly established a chicken business), or teaching foreign students about things in your area and vice versa.

The Path From Here to There

These changes will require giving up entrenched beliefs and the sense of comfort offered by a system that emphasizes order, control and immediate tangible results in the form of test scores, Zhao says. But the high unemployment rate among recent college graduates is causing people to rethink their assumptions and question whether the current model of education is serving children’s best interests.

Zhao has observed some elements of the changes for which he’s advocating appearing in more innovative public schools, primarily in suburban areas with smaller school districts and more local control. And in many ways, he says, he’s advocating for the United States to return to its roots.

“America thrived on democracy and trying to celebrate diversity, and allowing individuals to flourish. … It can look very messy,” he says, but the payoff is worth it.





 Questions Before Answers: What Drives a Great Lesson?

8 01 2015

 

DECEMBER 18, 2014

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. I never read the instruction book in the glove compartment. I just turned on the engine and drove off. I already knew how to drive, so I didn’t need a book. The exception occurred when I tried to set the clock. I couldn’t figure it out, so I finally opened the glove compartment and checked the book.

This pattern was and is true for every device I buy. I never read the book that comes with a toaster, an iPod, or a juicer unless I have a question. There are some people who do read instruction books before using a device, but with no disrespect intended, those people are a small minority. Our minds are set up to not care about answers unless we have a question. The greater the question, the more compelling it is, the more we want the answer. We learn best when questions come before answers.

The Need to Know

Too many classrooms ignore this basic learning model. They spend most of class time providing information and then ask questions in the form of a quiz, test, or discussion. This is backward. Too many students never learn this way. It is simply too hard to understand, organize, interpret, or make sense out of information — or even to care about it — unless it answers a question that students care about.

Lessons, units, and topics are more motivating when they begin with a question whose answer students want to know. Not only do great questions generate interest, they also answer the question that so many students wonder about: “Why do I have to learn this?” Finally, great questions increase cognitive organization of the content by framing it into a meaningful answer to the opening question.

There is a catch, though, in using questions to begin your lesson. The question must be connected to the content, so that the following learning activities actually answer the question. The question must fit your students’ age, ability, and experiences. In addition, the question needs to provoke both thought and curiosity. In fact, it must be compelling enough to generate so much motivation so that students can’t help but want to know the answer.

Have you ever forgotten the name of a song and spent hours trying to remember it? It gets under your skin until you no longer want the answer — you need it. That’s what a great opening question does for students. Compulsion more than simple curiosity drives them to learn the information that follows. It’s what I felt when I finally wanted to read my car manual so that I could set the clock.

10 Questions That Motivate Learning

Questions this powerful are hard to find. I suggest collecting as many as you can (5-10 per year, for example), and after weeding out the ones that didn’t work, eventually you’ll be able to fill a notebook or computer file with them. I have been collecting these kinds of questions from teachers for years. Here’s a sample of some great ones that worked with students in creating enough motivation to drive an entire lesson.

  • Middle school math: What does Martin Luther King have in common with algebra? (Answer: Both are concerned with equality.)
  • First grade science class studying particles: What is the smallest thing you’ve ever held in your hand? (Warning: Do not use this question in high school.)
  • Upper-level history class studying the Pilgrims: Is there anything your parents could ever do to you that would make you run away from home?
  • Elementary art: If humans could be a color other than any of the colors that they already are, what color would they be? Why do you think this? Draw some people of this color.
  • High school English: If Hamlet were a television sitcom, what would be a better name for it?
  • Elementary English: What is the best name for a book about your life?
  • Geography: Why does Israel have more fertile soil than other Middle East countries that share the same desert? (Answer: It has more trees to hold in moisture.)
  • Second grade reading: We are going to redesign the alphabet. What three letters can be eliminated? (Answer: C, Q, X)
  • Eighth grade physical education: Why is a soccer ball harder to control inside the gym than on the field? (Answer: Friction)
  • Middle school English: Why don’t good and food rhyme? Given the definition of best, can you have more than one best friend?

Each of these questions was used by teachers to begin lessons that really motivated their students. Can you add any more to the list?





Wired for Wonder Part 2

3 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nLet’s explore this metaphor further.  We hear hints to this quite often. You might hear in the lunchroom “There was magic in the classroom today”, “It worked like magic” “I wish I could do magic today in class”.

I am not suggesting teachers use trickery or subterfuge to deceive students like a street con artist would do. Though I am sure all teachers have been tempted in this. Listen to the words of Whit Haydn describe the three card con game:

We’re playing a game called Chase the Ace,
You have to guess from the back what’s on the face.
Once I mix the cards around,
You tell me where the Ace is found
Hey! Step this way!
Come here and play!
This is the game for the sporting fan,
Try your luck with the Monte Man!   (footnote)

A magical teacher is not a flim-flam man who scams and swindles with schemes to defraud.

I am also not suggesting that teachers be like a circus sideshow barker who shouts,

“Step right up to the Amazing Traveling Carnival and Side Show Extravaganza.  Come on in! It’s only a dollar!  I guarantee you haven’t seen anything like this! Rides? We’ve got Tilt-A-Whirl and we’ve got Merry-Go-Round and a Ferris Wheel! Stay for the Wild Man of Borneo! We’ve got soda pop and corn dogs! Ice cream and cotton candy! Come one come all! Only a dollar, only a dollar!”

I am sure teachers have been tempted to attract the attention of students like that. What I am suggesting is something deeper and wonderful.

Now listen to these preliminary comparisons of a magician and a teacher.

-He is a Showman like Circus Ringleader who points the audience to the spectacle

-He is a mind reader who reads the group with great observation skills

-He creates a receptive atmosphere

-He influences the mental state of the students

-He projects an air of mystery

-He attracts and focuses attention

-He uses words to create change

-He creates memorable moments

-He reveals and evokes wonder

 Listen to the haunting words of world class poet, musician and magician  Jay Scott Berry  (footnote)

                                         The Magician

     I can impress you in the wink of an eye with skills that will surely astound

     I can amaze, amuse, inspire, delight, and lead you to the profound

     You may simply think to brush it all off as prestidigitation.

     Or perhaps you may wish to look a bit deeper to the pool of inspiration.

     For the magic runs wild in the sea of your mind and to find it is always the goal.

     It whispers and sings in the depths of your heart all the way down to our soul.

     It beckons the dreamer ever to fly, the dancer ever to dance.

    And I the Magician, the Worker of Wonder, can merely offer the chance.

 

Now imagine as the teacher walks into the classroom.  The students are on edge of their seats.

Excitement filled the air with anticipation. What ideas would she produce today? She had no mirrors or threads and nothing up her sleeve.  She seemed to control the environment with the smile on her face.  She told stories of wonder that created life into the pages of the book and in our hearts.  We traveled together as the day unfolded. She did not perform a magic trick because the attention was not on her.  She evoked the magic in us.  She read our minds and hearts. She knew when we were ready.  She gently brought us to a place where we wanted to learn the secret knowledge of math and science. She enticed us to explore.  Her magic hat was a book.  Her magic words were ….”I believe in you”   “You can do this”   She was filled with enthusiasm, confidence,  she was a master of the subject, symbol of something the students desire.  We all wanted to be a teacher because of her. One thing that this teacher did was to see that the magic was in us.  She unleashed a sense of wonder that we could do marvelous things with our minds.

This teacher evoked the wonder and taught that true magic takes work!  The magic was that the students desired to work to produce more magic.

As Blaine Lee, author of the Power Principle, says  “The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”

Teachers need to encourage students that success does not take a magic hat but it takes putting on their thinking caps.  They convey ideas like “It is not a genii lamp for wishful thinking but using brains to do real thinking.  Exercising the body makes us physically strong but successful mental strength comes from determination, persistence, tenacity, resoluteness, toughness and endurance.  There is no elevator to success. You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.  It takes effort.”   That is the magic teachers can produce in the students.

Author  Robert Fanney echoes this when he asks “Is there magic in this world? Certainly! But it is not the kind of magic written about in fantasy stories. It is the kind of magic that comes from ideas and the hard work it often takes to make them real.”

One of these teachers was my 7th grade English teacher who believed in me.

I was in Middle school.  You remember Middle School- the time where self-efficacy declines and wonder diminishes.  But in this class the atmosphere was exploratory and enjoyable. But I remember less about her and more about the magic she unleashed from me. I discovered that I could write poetry with thoughts beyond my years and with language skills beyond the normal 7th grade level.  I was creative! I was a writer and a poet!  I learned to love writing poetry and I produced more in her class than any other class.  I always remember this with a renewed sense of wonder.

She was my cheer leader who produced magic in my heart and helped me  regain my sense of wonder.  She was my wonder champion.

Rita Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion-an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be”   (footnote)

Listen to E.E. Cummings reflection on this, “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

This is a true magician teacher!!!

For many years this sign hung on the door of my own classroom. “In this classroom you are invited to reach your potential!  I believe in you!  You can rise to the challenge!”  I thought of my 7th grade teacher  every time I walked by that sign.

Great teachers are like magicians because they reveal and evoke wonder.

Stay tuned for Part 3….





Wired for Wonder by Bob Bishop Part 1

2 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nPeople are metaphor makers.  We create our metaphors and we perceive life from the metaphors we create.  Metaphors are powerful ways we make meaning of this world. They can empower us and they can debilitate us.  That is why it is important to carefully choose our metaphors that bring success and creativity. Giving the right metaphor to our students can also transform the way they perceive themselves and their ability for learning.

Imagine that you  keep some of the most powerful life changing metaphors in your pocket and can bring them out when you need some reminders.  Let’s try some pocket metaphors right now!

Take some coins from your pocket.  Do it right now! I know that in reading this you may be tempted to be passive and not take action.  But slow down your skimming and take some coins out of your pocket.   Again, take some coins out from your pocket!  Place these coins on the floor and stand on them.  You have just acted out the most powerful metaphor we can begin with.  You are standing in the midst of change.  If you want education to change for the better you need to take action.

Deeper in your pocket you can keep a little paw removed from a stuffed Teddy Bear (a little gruesome, I know).  When you are overwhelmed with all the confusion in education you need to pause (paws), take breath and reflect on why you are in education and the part you play to improve the minds of students.

In my right pants pocket I keep my keychain with a  small flashlight to remind me that when things look dim I can shine some light on the situation and others if I just lighten up a bit.

In my wallet in my back pocket I am ready for anything because I carry one playing card-a joker.  This is a reminder that whatever I am dealt I can transform it something better.  I can laugh at the absurdities of life and not take myself too seriously.

Imagine using this idea with your students.  Imagine them handling struggles, problems or situations  with a metaphor that matches their strengths or passions. Perhaps math is a dragon that they can train or slay.  Perhaps a problem is an opposing football player that they can tackle.  Now imagine blessing your student with the strengths of their heroes.  How would Superman turn this situation around?  If you had the ability to change minds or abilities with your favorite  hero how would they do this?

Here is a helpful hint to all teachers out there. We can teach students  how to apply an appropriate metaphor with their imagination to help them achieve success.  If we want individuals to succeed treat them uniquely with the metaphor that matches their creative passions.  Metaphors have the power of metamorphosis–they can empower students to transform how they perceive problems, success and the world.

We can see how metaphors are the grid and projector of how we perceive the world.  They have penetrated our vocabulary so well they are often imperceptible.

Listen to a few:

Ideas are food: There are raw facts, half-baked ideas you can’t swallow or digest that you may have to let stew for a while or put on the back burner until they become food for  thought.

Ideas are plants: From her fertile imagination planted in her youth became a seed of a budding theory that got to the root of the issue that may branch out before it dies on the vine.

Let’s take a short walk to explore how we use familiar educational metaphors. Take the well-known quote by Socrates: “Education is the kindling of a flame not the filing of a vessel”  Einstein has a similar version of this ideas when he said, “A student is not a container you have to fill but a torch you have to light up.”

These quotes introduce two contrasting metaphors. One sees students as receptacles for stuffing information and knowledge into. The other sees students  as a spark to ignite.  One sees teachers as one who imposes knowledge and fills the mind receptacle with information. The other sees the teacher bringing out knowledge and igniting a flame.  Choosing your metaphor influences how you teach and perceive your students.

In Latin the word “educate” has two Latin roots.  They are eduare which means to train or mold and educere meaning to draw out. Thus there is an etymological basis for many of the debates about education today.  (footnote)

One camp uses education as the preservation and passing down of knowledge -the shaping of youths in the image of the past.  The other camp sees education as preparing a new generation for the issues that are to come–preparing youths to create new solutions to problems yet unknown.

Pushing the characterization to an extreme: one calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers while the other requires questioning, thinking and creating.

If you were to listen carefully to our vocabulary you might catch some learning metaphors that affect how education plays itself out even in your child’s classroom.

If we see the classroom of students as a garden we would see the teacher as planting ideas as seeds that grow in our students.

If we see our classroom as a competitive race you would see whoever gets to the finish line first wins.

If you see yourself as a gamer you would strategize to determine what to teach and students would either win or lose

If the classroom is seen as a battleground the job would be to win over the students.

A common metaphor of the industrial age is the educational factory where students are products on an assembly line molded to fit in a competitive system.

A common (seemingly harmless) metaphor for education is a journey.  But this can be distorted to become the journey of the teacher. The trailblazer teacher’s responsibility is to keep moving their students through content.  The teacher “needs to keep going,” “pass to the next thing”, “move on” and to “to cover the material”.  Student lack of movement (lack of academic progress) is used to describe students who can’t keep the pace.  The road to academic progress has only one “only way”  and “one size fits all”.

Even the Latin root of curriculum adds momentum to this. Curriculum means a “race” or the “course of a race.”

Let’s take out that “paw” from your pocket to pause and reflect.

Metaphors that focus on what the teacher does rather than what the students learn sees students as passive receivers who need motivation to stretch that vessel and to keep up with the race.

So what are we really teaching?  What is the secret curriculum between the lines of our schools? What hidden  metaphor is behind the curtain of our educational system?  What metaphor is behind the decision making in this countries’ education system.  When we continually compare our country with other countries to demonstrate how far we are behind are we not presupposing a metaphor?  What we focus on is what our children focus on.

The most well-known metaphor for ideas is a light bulb. Let’s start there for a moment. Let’s take out that flash light from your pocket to shed some light on education.

Here are some observations based on a light bulb.

  1. We are all wired differently with different learning styles.  If we look around at the observable differences in students we can be assured that their brains, though looking  similar, have far more neuron nuances with more complex differences than physical appearances.
  2. We learn by making connections.  Learning is a physical process in which new knowledge is represented by new brain cell connections.  Students gather information but it takes the integrative imagination to create knowledge.
  3. Our task is turning kids on to learning.  Just as a light bulb has a switch to turn it on, teachers have to find that switch that will light up the student’s desire to learn.
  4. Sometimes we get our wires crossed on what learning is all about.  We do not connect  because we do not teach to how students learn.
  5. We can all use some bright creative ideas for motivation.  The best teachers are models of learning.  They share with students that every day is a learning experience to further understand the topics they teach and the students they seek to inspire.
  6. We are wired for wonder.  Deep inside every learner there is a mind that hungers for the electricity of astonishment and a desire for wonder.

I would like to introduce a new metaphor.  It is exciting, mysterious and fun! We are in a transformational time in education.  Remember we are standing in the midst of change. But you better sit down to listen to this.  Here is a fresh metaphor to help us transform our perspective of education.

Think of the first magic trick you saw and how you experienced a thrill, surprise, mystery, and a spectacle.  Think of a time where your innocence found wonder.  This may sound trivial or naive now but think of how you felt as a child. This was a time before you knew about sleight-of-hand, trapdoors, and “up the sleeve” secrets.  This was before you knew that parlor tricks were done with smoke and mirrors.  This was before your amazement was dashed after a magician fumbled or bumbled and destroyed the spell.

You could have remembered your grandfather pulling a coin from your ear. You could have remembered a circus or amusement park entertainer or a stage illusion from David Copperfield. You could have been dazzled by a close-up magician with a card trick, amazed by an escape artist in the tradition of Houdini, or had someone “read” your mind.

What if you had a magic wand that could transform something about education or your teaching?  Like that joker in your back pocket, what if you could transform what you were dealt into something amazing?

Would you like to make some magic happen in your classroom?  Remember we are developing a metaphor even as you read.

What if you could……..

                    M    Motivate from a heart of wonder

                    A    Activate learning

                    G    Generate inquisitiveness

                    I      Invigorate emotions

                    C    Celebrate the brain





Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding by Todd Finley

2 01 2015

JULY 30, 2014

What strategy can double student learning gains? According to 250 empirical studies, the answer is formative assessment, defined by Bill Younglove as “the frequent, interactive checking of student progress and understanding in order to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.”

Unlike summative assessment, which evaluates student learning according to a benchmark, formative assessment monitors student understanding so that kids are always aware of their academic strengths and learning gaps. Meanwhile, teachers can improve the effectiveness of their instruction, re-teaching if necessary. “When the cook tastes the soup,” writes Robert E. Stake, “that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” Formative assessment can be administered as an exam. But if the assessment is not a traditional quiz, it falls within the category of alternative assessment.

Alternative formative assessment (AFA) strategies can be as simple (and important) as checking the oil in your car — hence the name “dipsticks.” They’re especially effective when students are given tactical feedback, immediately followed by time to practice the skill. My favorite techniques are those with simple directions, like The 60 Second Paper, which asks students to describe the most important thing they learned and identify any areas of confusion in under a minute. You can find another 53 ways to check for understanding toward the end of this post, also available as a downloadable document.

In the sections below, we’ll discuss things to consider when implementing AFAs.

Observation: A Key Practice in Alternative Formative Assessment

A fundamental element of most AFAs is observation. In her Edutopia post, Rebecca Alber says there is much to learn by taking observational notes as students work in groups. “However,” she clarifies, “if it is quiet during this talk time, and they are watching you watch them, they are most likely lost.” Another Edutopia blogger, Elena Aguilar witnessed “a fantastic first grade Sheltered English teacher” who directed his students to respond to a story by making hand gestures and holding up picture cards. “In this way, the teacher was able to immediately see who was struggling with the concepts and provide corrective feedback.”

By methodically watching and recording student performance with a focused observation form, you can learn a lot about students’ levels of understanding in just a few moments. For example, on the Teach Like a Champion blog, watch how math teacher Taryn Pritchard uses an observation sheet, and note her description of how she pre-plans to assess students’ mastery levels in only ten seconds. Pre-planning methodical observations allow instructors to efficiently and effectively intervene when it counts most — the instant students start down the wrong path.

New to Alternative Formative Assessment? Start Slow

The National Capital Language Resource Center recommends the following when introducing alternative assessment for the first time:

  • Integrate alternative assessments gradually, while still using the traditional assessments.
  • Walk students through the rubrics and discuss expectations when you introduce assignments.
  • Learn to score alternative assessments yourself, and then gradually introduce students to self-evaluation.
  • Teach students how to thoughtfully give each other feedback as you introduce them to peer-response.

A Simple Way to Gain Information from Your Students: Ask Them

When preservice teachers are confused as to why their students performed poorly on an assignment, I gently say, “Did you ask them why?” After all, having learners use their own vernacular to articulate why they are stuck can be profoundly useful for identifying where to target support.

According to the American Institute of Nondestructive Testing, the simplest tool to encourage student self-assessment is evaluative prompts:

  • How much time and effort did you put into this?
  • What do you think your strengths and weaknesses were in this assignment?
  • How could you improve your assignment?
  • What are the most valuable things you learned from this assignment?

Learners can respond to those prompts using Padlet, a virtual corkboard where many computer users can simultaneously post their responses, followed by a focused whole-class discussion of students’ answers. The instructor doesn’t always have to develop prompts — students can invent and submit one or more potential exam questions and answers on relevant content. Tell them that you’ll include the best contributions on a forthcoming quiz.

Portfolios are a more complex form of ongoing self-assessment that can be featured during student-led conferences. James Mule, principal of St. Amelia Elementary School in New York, describes how children benefit from the student-led conferences that occur at his institution: “With the student in charge and the teacher acting as a facilitator, the authentic assessment gives students practice in self-evaluation and boosts accountability, self-confidence, and self-esteem.” Pernille Ripp’s Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension provides all the handouts needed.

The biggest benefit of integrating AFAs into your practice is that students will internalize the habit of monitoring their understanding and adjusting accordingly.

We created the following list as a downloadable reminder to post by your computer. In the comments section of this post, tell us which of these 53 ways you’ve used for checking on students’ understanding — or recommend other AFAs we should know about.

Click to download a PDF of these 53 AFA strategies (435 KB).
  1. Summary Poem Activity
    • List ten key words from an assigned text.
    • Do a free verse poem with the words you highlighted.
    • Write a summary of the reading based on these words.
  2. Invent the Quiz
    • Write ten higher-order text questions related to the content. Pick two and answer one of them in half a page.
  3. The 411
    • Describe the author’s objective.
  4. Opinion Chart
    • List opinions about the content in the left column of a T-chart, and support your opinions in the right column.
  5. So What? Journal
    • Identify the main idea of the lesson. Why is it important?
  6. Rate Understanding
  7. Clickers (Response System)
  8. Teacher Observation Checklist
  9. Explaining
    • Explain the main idea using an analogy.
  10. Evaluate
    • What is the author’s main point? What are the arguments for and against this idea?
  11. Describe
    • What are the important characteristics or features of the main concept or idea of the reading?
  12. Define
    • Pick out an important word or phrase that the author of a text introduces. What does it mean?
  13. Compare and Contrast
    • Identify the theory or idea the author is advancing. Then identify an opposite theory. What are the similarities and differences between these ideas?
  14. Question Stems
    • I believe that ________ because _______.
    • I was most confused by _______.
  15. Mind Map
    • Create a mind map that represents a concept using a diagram-making tool (like Gliffy). Provide your teacher/classmates with the link to your mind map.
  16. Intrigue Journal
    • List the five most interesting, controversial, or resonant ideas you found in the readings. Include page numbers and a short rationale (100 words) for your selection.
  17. Advertisement
    • Create an ad, with visuals and text, for the newly learned concept.
  18. 5 Words
    • What five words would you use to describe ______? Explain and justify your choices.
  19. Muddy Moment
    • What frustrates and confuses you about the text? Why?
  20. Collage
    • Create a collage around the lesson’s themes. Explain your choices in one paragraph.
  21. Letter
    • Explain _______ in a letter to your best friend.
  22. Talk Show Panel
    • Have a cast of experts debate the finer points of _______.
  23. Study Guide
    • What are the main topics, supporting details, important person’s contributions, terms, and definitions?
  24. Illustration
    • Draw a picture that illustrates a relationship between terms in the text. Explain in one paragraph your visual representation.
  25. KWL Chart
    • What do you know, what do you want to know, and what have you learned?
  26. Sticky Notes Annotation
    • Use sticky notes to describe key passages that are notable or that you have questions about.
  27. 3-2-1
    • Three things you found out.
    • Two interesting things.
    • One question you still have.
  28. Outline
    • Represent the organization of _______ by outlining it.
  29. Anticipation Guide
    • Establish a purpose for reading and create post-reading reflections and discussion.
  30. Simile
    • What we learned today is like _______.
  31. The Minute Paper
    • In one minute, describe the most meaningful thing you’ve learned.
  32. Interview You
    • You’re the guest expert on 60 Minutes. Answer:
      1. What are component parts of _______?
      2. Why does this topic matter?
  33. Double Entry Notebook
    • Create a two-column table. Use the left column to write down 5-8 important quotations. Use the right column to record reactions to the quotations.
  34. Comic Book
    • Use a comic book creation tool like Bitstrips to represent understanding.
  35. Tagxedo
    • What are key words that express the main ideas? Be ready to discuss and explain.
  36. Classroom TED Talk
  37. Podcast
    • Play the part of a content expert and discuss content-related issues on a podcast, using the free Easypodcast.
  38. Create a Multimedia Poster with Glogster
  39. Twitter Post
    • Define _______ in under 140 characters.
  40. Explain Your Solution
    • Describe how you solved an academic problem, step by step.
  41. Dramatic Interpretation
    • Dramatize a critical scene from a complex narrative.
  42. Ballad
    • Summarize a narrative that employs a poem or song structure using short stanzas.
  43. Pamphlet
    • Describe the key features of _______ in a visually and textually compelling pamphlet.
  44. Study Guide
    • Create a study guide that outlines main ideas.
  45. Bio Poem
    • To describe a character or person, write a poem that includes:
      • (Line 1) First name
      • (Line 2) 3-4 adjectives that describe the person
      • (Line 3) Important relationship
      • (Line 4) 2-3 things, people, or ideas the person loved
      • (Line 5) Three feelings the person experienced
      • (Line 6) Three fears the person experienced
      • (Line 7) Accomplishments
      • (Line 8) 2-3 things the person wanted to see happen or wanted to experience
      • (Line 9) His or her residence
      • (Line 10) Last name
  46. Sketch
    • Visually represent new knowledge.
  47. Top Ten List
    • What are the most important takeaways, written with humor?
  48. Color Cards
    • Red = “Stop, I need help.”
    • Green = “Keep going, I understand.”
    • Yellow = “I’m a little confused.”
  49. Quickwrite
    • Without stopping, write what most confuses you.
  50. Conference
    • A short, focused discussion between the teacher and student.
  51. Debrief
    • Reflect immediately after an activity.
  52. Exit Slip
    • Have students reflect on lessons learned during class.
  53. Misconception Check
    • Given a common misconception about a topic, students explain why they agree or disagree with it.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/dipsticks-to-check-for-understanding-todd-finley?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=blog-dipsticks-to-check-for-understanding-image-repost

Other Assessment Resources

In Edutopia’s The Power of Comprehensive Assessment, Bob Lenz describes how to create a balanced assessment system.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) describes dozens of Formative Assessment Strategies.

The Assessment and Rubrics page of Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything website hosts many excellent assessment rubrics.

More Rubrics for Assessment are provided by the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Jon Mueller’s Authentic Tasks and Rubrics is a must see-resource in his Authentic Assessment Toolbox website.





Six Ways To Motivate Students To Learn

21 12 2014

Annie Murphy Paul

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Scientific research has provided us with a number of ways to get the learning juices flowing, none of which involve paying money for good grades. And most smart teachers know this, even without scientific proof.

1.   Fine-tune the challenge. We’re most motivated to learn when the task before us is matched to our level of skill: not so easy as to be boring, and not so hard as to be frustrating. Deliberately fashion the learning exercise so that students are working at the very edge of your abilities, and keep upping the difficulty as they improve.

2.  Start with the question, not the answer. Memorizing information is boring. Discovering the solution to a puzzle is invigorating. Present material to be learned not as a fait accompli, but as a live question begging to be explored.

3.   Encourage students to beat their personal best. Some learning tasks, like memorizing the multiplication table or a list of names or facts, are simply not interesting in themselves. Generate motivation by encouraging students to compete against themselves: run through the material once to establish a baseline, then keep track of how much they improve (in speed, in accuracy) each time.

4.   Connect abstract learning to concrete situations. Adopt the case-study method that has proven so effective for business, medical and law school students: apply abstract theories and concepts to a real-world scenario, using these formulations to analyze and make sense of situations involving real people and real stakes.

5.   Make it social. Put together a learning group, or have students find learning partners with whom they can share their moments of discovery and points of confusion. Divide the learning task into parts, and take turns being teacher and pupil. The simple act of explaining what they’re learning out loud will help them understand and remember it better.

6.   Go deep. Almost any subject is interesting once you get inside it. Assign the task of becoming the world’s expert on one small aspect of the material they have to learn—then extend their new expertise outward by exploring how the piece they know so well connects to all the other pieces they need to know about.

For more about the science of learning, go to AnnieMurphyPaul.com





Is Executive Functioning the Missing Link for Many Gifted Students?

15 12 2014

Written by Alyssa Coburn on October 8, 2013. Posted in Executive Functioning

taking a testDean’s Story

Let me share with you a story about a gifted child I know named Dean whose story might be familiar to some of you. At three, Dean could correctly identify every Thomas the Tank character that ever appeared on the show.  At four, he figured out how to read on his own and by five, his obsession with presidents meant he could soon tell you the name, birthday, and interesting facts about every president.  At seven, he was memorizing all of the chemical elements for fun. Dean has always had a voracious appetite for reading, enjoys reading the same books over and over again, and could tell you detailed facts about everything he has ever read.

Now that Dean is eleven, it’s puzzling to his parents that he can’t keep up at school. His papers are a mess, riddled with dog-ears.  He brought home three missing assignment slips just last week. He usually aces quizzes and tests, but when he doesn’t get an “A”, he’s more likely to get a “D.”  While he completes homework in record time, it’s a mystery as to how his teacher can decipher his illegible work.  His mom is struggling to understand, “Why is my bright child struggling at school?”  The answer can be found in his executive functioning skills.

What is executive functioning?

When we think of traditional learning, we think of taking in facts and developing skills. These are both examples of input. In Dean’s case, his strength is input.  In fact, his father has often described his mind as a “steel trap.”  Executive functioning (“EF”) skills are an opposite set of skills: they include everything that has to do with acting on knowledge, or output. This means that “EF” includes organizing papers, writing down assignments, taking notes, studying, and even writing with structure. It’s the output that Dean struggles with. Information goes in his mind very easily and thoroughly, and he has no trouble understanding what he’s learning. When he tries to share that information or get through a homework list, however, the work product comes out very scattered.

Is this common in gifted children?

Not all gifted children struggle with executive functioning, but gifted children are often more likely to encounter these struggles than other students.  Why?  For starters, gifted children like Dean find learning and school to initially be very easy, sometimes even boring.   When it comes to developing executive functioning skills, though, there really is a downside to school being “too easy.”  If you are able to easily understand your lessons, memorize the key details, and recall them later, there is no need to develop a set of study skills.  Justin, a former student of mine who is now in high school, found this out the hard way. He breezed through elementary school and middle school. He consistently earned A’s without ever studying.  That also meant that Justin was not practicing these skills.  Even though his developing brain was primed and ready to learn these types of skills, he wasn’t getting opportunities to learn, practice, hone, and master studying. When he transitioned to high school and encountered a rigorous American history course, he had no idea how to approach that class. He floundered for the first time in his academic career.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to studying either.  If Susie can memorize all of her assignments throughout grade school and never needs to write them down, she never has the opportunity to learn and practice assignment management.  If Alex can fly through his homework each night in twenty minutes, he doesn’t have to learn to prioritize and organize his time.  If Cheryl memorizes the details of a lecture right as she hears it, she’s not likely to learn good note-taking skills for when the lectures become much more advanced later on.  Having a talent for taking in information can actually hamper the development of these output skills.

Don’t wait for disaster

Every executive functioning skill can be broken down, taught, practiced, and mastered.  The key is to learn these skills before they are critically needed for success in a tough class.  If your child is going to be taking a heavy course load in the future, make sure that executive functioning skills are being learned early.  The middle school years (grades five to eight) offer the ideal window for this.  Even if your child doesn’t “need” to write everything down or study for his or her current classes, a tutor or teacher can help get these habits firmly established and set the stage for the future.  At a minimum, every child should learn to organize school papers/materials, track and prioritize assignments, take notes on a textbook, study effectively (not just “look over” material), and write responses and paragraphs with structure.  These skills are just as important as learning to solve equations or punctuate a sentence!

 Executive functioning needs also provide another reason for you to work with your teachers and school to ensure that your child is being adequately challenged.  “Too easy” is a problem that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Children who are not challenged enough miss out on an opportunity to practice critical executive functioning skills.  They are also more likely to become risk-adverse and not tackle challenges that are out of their comfort zone.  When kids are regularly challenged with work that pushes their intellectual limits, without putting them in a constant state of frustration, a lot of development can happen: both in terms of input and output!

Bio

Amanda Vogel is the Vice President of Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring and the director of Nurturing Wisdom Academy, a private school in Hinsdale.  She has a Master’s degree in special education and over twelve years of experience in teaching, writing curriculum, and supporting educators.  She developed Nurturing Wisdom’s extensive executive functioning curriculum for both their tutoring and school program





Important to cultivate young academic talents

12 12 2014
Nobel Prize 2014
May-Britt and Edvard Moser

“ I skipped a class when I went to school and was also given books by my mother. She also said that if you do not work hard, you will have to become a housewife, and then I was really afraid,” May-Britt Moser said, laughing. Photo: Gunnar K. Hansen

2014 NOBEL PRIZE: Teachers need to recognize students who burn with curiosity and cultivate that inquisitiveness, 2014 Nobel Laureates May-Britt and Edvard Moser said Monday in a special panel discussion on Science in Scandinavia organized by the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

Published 08.12.14

The event also featured a panel discussion with the Mosers and rectors from a number of Scandinavian universities, including Rector Gunnar Bovim from NTNU, along with people from Norwegian and Swedish academia.

The Mosers say it’s not so much a matter of having elite schools, but of fostering teachers who can recognize and encourage students with exceptional talents.

“We come from families with dreams, but not so many successes. My parents wanted an education, but could not go to university because of the war. My parents gave me many books, but I did not know anyone who had a university education. There was a strength in the sense that we had to have our own ideas,” said Edvard Moser.

The debate over PISA

Bojs raised the question of how Scandinavian schools can be more competitive because the PISA results for Swedish children have been declining in recent years. PISA is a test of European 15-year-olds’ competencies in mathematics, reading and science and, in some countries, problem solving and financial literacy.

The panel discussion addressed how Norway and Sweden can improve their global competitiveness by developing and retaining more talents in Scandinavia. Both May-Britt and Edvard Moser stressed the importance of skilled teachers in school.

Free to ask stupid questions

“All children are born with stars in their eyes, and they are curious. It is important for teachers to be careful not to kill this curiosity. A lot can go wrong. Children can be teased, even by teachers,” May-Britt Moser said. “It is so important to allow children to bloom and to be driven by their curiosity. I was the youngest child. I got to be myself and ask stupid questions because I was the youngest. It is so important to listen to the questions children have, and reward them for the wondrous questions they ask.”

Edvard Moser added that if schools are going to cultivate and encourage academic talents, teachers must be allowed to teach differently to different students.

Could  have easily been bored

“When I was a schoolchild there was no differentiation in the way students were taught. I went to good schools, but I had to do the same thing as everyone else,” said Edvard Moser. “I was motivated on my own, so everything went fine, but it could have been boring because I was ahead of other students in many subjects. I believe that if we want to cultivate academic talents, we need to allow teachers to differentiate between students. The Norwegian school system must have enough resources so that teachers can work with kids at different levels.”

But neither Edvard nor May-Britt Moser sees the need for elite schools.

Teachers who can motivate

May-Britt Moser says instead of special, elite schools, the Norwegian school system should try to make sure there are teachers in each school who can motivate kids.

“These could be professors from universities, for example. Children need teachers who have stars in their eyes themselves, and who treat them with respect,” she said.

NTNU Rector Gunnar Bovim NTNU added that it is important to let people feel free to be ambitious, no matter where their ambitions lie.

“We have to give people permission to be ambitious,” he said. “Athletes are allowed to be ambitious, but it is un-Norwegian to allow people to have intellectual ambitions. We have to allow people with intellectual ambitions to bloom.”





The Delicate Balance

8 12 2014

By Jill Jenkins

With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

                What is important for students to know?  What should our schools be teaching? If you listen to media, all the schools should be focused on is STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Just like in the 1950’s our society is demanding that education provide more STEM education to provide a technological suave population who can produce a profit for our corporations. Are schools created to serve our corporations or the individual needs of our students?  Society certainly rewards students who perform well in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but not every student has the desire or the aptitude to do well in those areas.  Are we doing those students a disservice? Since girls have stronger verbal skills and brains wired for an education in communications is this a subtle form of prejudice?  Before we write our curriculum, it is important to determine what is important to know to help our students become both productive citizens and principled people.  We need a more balanced approach to serve all of the needs of all of the varied students in our classes?

                Schools need to prepare students to be productive citizens, but to be honest with as rapidly as technology is changing that is not an easy task.  As a child, I remember laughing at Maxwell Smart and his shoe telephone.  Now, all of us carry telephones around in our pockets that are not only communication devices, but small computers.  The truth is there will be careers that we can’t even imagine, so we have to give students skills to be life-long learners.  To achieve they must be willing to learn new skills through-out their lives. We need to prepare students to adapt to world that we cannot conceive existing. 

                Research shows that females learn differently than males. According to the article, “How Boys and Girls Learn Differently” by Dr. Gail  Gross from the Huffington Post,boys have less serotonin and oxytocin which makes girls more sensitive to other’s  feeling subtly communicated through body language and they can sit still for longer periods of time.  Girls have larger hippocampus, where memory and language is stored.  This means they develop language skills, reading skills and vocabulary much sooner than boys. On the other hand, boys have a larger cerebral cortex which means they learn visually and have better spatial relationships.  This could improve their ability in engineering and technology.  These differences become less dramatic as the child grows older.  Perhaps schools need to focus on presenting a broad spectrum of disciplines in a variety of ways to serve all of students.

Even though our society does not value careers where communications rather than subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the primary focus, they may still be important careers for our society.  For example, teachers are essential if we want to continue to produce an educated workforce, but if pay is the measurement of value, they are not valued by society.  In the state where I taught science, engineering, technology and math teachers were all paid $5000.00 a year more than any other kind of teacher.  Still, if we want to be realistic students’ need a balance of both to be successful.  For example, my daughter is a journalist; however, she also needs to know how to write computer coding because the magazine that employs her is on-line. Most scientists must document whatever they do which means they need writing and reading skills. Furthermore, who is to say who will be the next poet laureate .   The arts, history and language arts are all equally important skills for students to master as math, science and technological based skills.

Even more important, the humanities:  literature, history and the arts force people to ask “why.”  Certainly, we can’t think about Nazi Germany without realizing, there was a reason that Hitler banned books.  We can’t read a Michael Critchton book without discussing ethics in science and medicine.  We can’t read Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twistwithout questioning the social problems caused by poverty and homelessness.  Reading, writing, history, the arts are all connected to science, math, technology and engineering. A quality education is a balance.  All of it is equally important.  Teachers should be compensated equally and students should be provided with an equal balance.  Teachers should help students develop their own individual talents, so they can become all that they can be.  Schools should prepare each student to become “all that they can be,” not a product to serve the needs of industry.





Why Storytelling in the Classroom Matters

8 12 2014

What is “storytelling”? Telling stories, of course! In 2014, there are so many diverse, wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming ways to do this. What I want to explore is traditional, oral storytelling, which has been a part of human life since we first left Africa 200,000 or more years ago. Perhaps storytelling was the reason language developed in the first place, as our minds began to inquire, wonder, think.

Why Do We Tell Stories?

Whether in caves or in cities, storytelling remains the most innate and important form of communication. All of us tell stories. The story of your day, the story of your life, workplace gossip, the horrors on the news. Our brains are hard-wired to think and express in terms of a beginning, middle and end. It’s how we understand the world.

Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. It bonded the early human communities, giving children the answers to the biggest questions of creation, life, and the afterlife. Stories define us, shape us, control us, and make us. Not every human culture in the world is literate, but every single culture tells stories.

Can You Be a Storyteller and a Teacher?

You already are. Teachers are storytellers, and storytellers have been teachers for millennia. In reality, teachers don’t see themselves as storytellers. Or rather, they see the occasional storyteller and think it’s a theatrical, exaggerated show more akin to acting. But hang on a minute — being a teacher definitely involves acting and theatrics.

Interactive Storytelling

It is important at this stage that I describe my particular style. I don’t rely on just “speaking” the story. I don’t sit still in a chair. I talk slowly, with alternating rhythm. I walk around. I use my hands a lot. And, most importantly, I invite children from the audience to act out the story as I tell it. They dress up in funny hats and other props, and they follow the instructions in the story and repeat the dialogue I say. I stop and start the story a lot, asking the audience to contribute sound effects, to answer questions, to make suggestions.

The Many Benefits to Storytelling

When you tell your first story, there is a magical moment. The children sit enthralled, mouths open, eyes wide. If that isn’t enough reason, then consider that storytelling:

  • Inspires purposeful talking, and not just about the story — there are many games you can play.
  • Raises the enthusiasm for reading texts to find stories, reread them, etc.
  • Initiates writing because children will quickly want to write stories and tell them.
  • Enhances the community in the room.
  • Improves listening skills.
  • Really engages the boys who love the acting.
  • Is enjoyed by children from kindergarten to the end of elementary school.
  • Gives a motivating reason for English-language learners to speak and write English.

That last point has really proven powerful this year. My school is 97 percent English-language learners, and I have many children in my class who arrived speaking little or no English. The single biggest factor to their incredible progress in English has been their wanting to become storytellers.

So How Do You Become a Storyteller?

I recommend the following:

  1. Read as many different world folktales, fables, myths, and legends as you can.
  2. Watch professional storytellers and take notes about how they do it. Every storyteller is different, and you can learn something from them all.
  3. Build your confidence by reading your students picture books or chapter books with an interesting voice. Stop to ask questions. Make the book reading interactive. It will help you create a shared event with a story.
  4. Pick stories with small numbers of characters and repeating events, as these are easiest to remember. Having said that, pick any story you like — no, that you love! If it captivates you, it will captivate the younger ones, too.
  5. Write the stories down in a notebook. Writing helps you remember a story, and it models the same to the children.
  6. When you start “telling” your story, it’s OK to have the book nearby and to take a look at it if you forget a part. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are a student again.
  7. Get yourself a “prop box” made of old bits of linen, and fill it with hats from charity shops and random objects that children can use imaginatively. I got a lot of my materials from recycling centers.

So What’s Next?

Sure, becoming a storyteller takes effort and inclination on your behalf, but with so many benefits, isn’t it worth trying? You might surprise yourself. You will certainly surprise your students. In relatively little time, you can be telling stories, running storytelling clubs, capturing the attention of the whole school assembly, contributing to school events and PD training schedules. I never thought I would be doing any of this when I started my teacher training seven years ago.

So what’s stopping you? The next story starts with you . . .





Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results

8 12 2014
I had a teacher once who called his students “idiots” when they screwed up. He was our orchestra conductor, a fierce Ukrainian immigrant named Jerry Kupchynsky, and when someone played out of tune, he would stop the entire group to yell, “Who eez deaf in first violins!?” He made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.Today, he’d be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years’ worth of former students and colleagues flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country, old instruments in tow, to play a concert in his memory. I was among them, toting my long-neglected viola. When the curtain rose on our concert that day, we had formed a symphony orchestra the size of the New York Philharmonic.

Mr. K began teaching at East Brunswick High School when it opened in 1958. Kupchynsky Family

I was stunned by the outpouring for the gruff old teacher we knew as Mr. K. But I was equally struck by the success of his former students. Some were musicians, but most had distinguished themselves in other fields, like law, academia and medicine. Research tells us that there is a positive correlation between music education and academic achievement. But that alone didn’t explain the belated surge of gratitude for a teacher who basically tortured us through adolescence.

We’re in the midst of a national wave of self-recrimination over the U.S. education system. Every day there is hand-wringing over our students falling behind the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. trail students in 12 other nations in science and 17 in math, bested by their counterparts not just in Asia but in Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands, too. An entire industry of books and consultants has grown up that capitalizes on our collective fear that American education is inadequate and asks what American educators are doing wrong.

I would ask a different question. What did Mr. K do right? What can we learn from a teacher whose methods fly in the face of everything we think we know about education today, but who was undeniably effective?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Comparing Mr. K’s methods with the latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine leads to a single, startling conclusion: It’s time to revive old-fashioned education. Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here’s the thing: It works.

Now I’m not calling for abuse; I’d be the first to complain if a teacher called my kids names. But the latest evidence backs up my modest proposal. Studies have now shown, among other things, the benefits of moderate childhood stress; how praise kills kids’ self-esteem; and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores.

All of which flies in the face of the kinder, gentler philosophy that has dominated American education over the past few decades. The conventional wisdom holds that teachers are supposed to tease knowledge out of students, rather than pound it into their heads. Projects and collaborative learning are applauded; traditional methods like lecturing and memorization—derided as “drill and kill”—are frowned upon, dismissed as a surefire way to suck young minds dry of creativity and motivation.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong. And the following eight principles—a manifesto if you will, a battle cry inspired by my old teacher and buttressed by new research—explain why.

1. A little pain is good for you.

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson gained fame for his research showing that true expertise requires about 10,000 hours of practice, a notion popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers.” But an often-overlooked finding from the same study is equally important: True expertise requires teachers who give “constructive, even painful, feedback,” as Dr. Ericsson put it in a 2007 Harvard Business Review article. He assessed research on top performers in fields ranging from violin performance to surgery to computer programming to chess. And he found that all of them “deliberately picked unsentimental coaches who would challenge them and drive them to higher levels of performance.”

Mr. Kupchynsky helps his daughter with her bow stroke in 1966. Arthur Montzka

2. Drill, baby, drill.

Rote learning, long discredited, is now recognized as one reason that children whose families come from India (where memorization is still prized) are creaming their peers in the National Spelling Bee Championship. This cultural difference also helps to explain why students in China (and Chinese families in the U.S.) are better at math. Meanwhile, American students struggle with complex math problems because, as research makes abundantly clear, they lack fluency in basic addition and subtraction—and few of them were made to memorize their times tables.

William Klemm of Texas A&M University argues that the U.S. needs to reverse the bias against memorization. Even the U.S. Department of Education raised alarm bells, chastising American schools in a 2008 report that bemoaned the lack of math fluency (a notion it mentioned no fewer than 17 times). It concluded that schools need to embrace the dreaded “drill and practice.”

3. Failure is an option.

Kids who understand that failure is a necessary aspect of learning actually perform better. In a 2012 study, 111 French sixth-graders were given anagram problems that were too difficult for them to solve. One group was then told that failure and trying again are part of the learning process. On subsequent tests, those children consistently outperformed their peers.

The fear, of course is that failure will traumatize our kids, sapping them of self-esteem. Wrong again. In a 2006 study, a Bowling Green State University graduate student followed 31 Ohio band students who were required to audition for placement and found that even students who placed lowest “did not decrease in their motivation and self-esteem in the long term.” The study concluded that educators need “not be as concerned about the negative effects” of picking winners and losers.

4. Strict is better than nice.

What makes a teacher successful? To find out, starting in 2005 a team of researchers led by Claremont Graduate University education professor Mary Poplin spent five years observing 31 of the most highly effective teachers (measured by student test scores) in the worst schools of Los Angeles, in neighborhoods like South Central and Watts. Their No. 1 finding: “They were strict,” she says. “None of us expected that.”

The researchers had assumed that the most effective teachers would lead students to knowledge through collaborative learning and discussion. Instead, they found disciplinarians who relied on traditional methods of explicit instruction, like lectures. “The core belief of these teachers was, ‘Every student in my room is underperforming based on their potential, and it’s my job to do something about it—and I can do something about it,'” says Prof. Poplin.

She reported her findings in a lengthy academic paper. But she says that a fourth-grader summarized her conclusions much more succinctly this way: “When I was in first grade and second grade and third grade, when I cried my teachers coddled me. When I got to Mrs. T’s room, she told me to suck it up and get to work. I think she’s right. I need to work harder.”

5. Creativity can be learned.

The rap on traditional education is that it kills children’s’ creativity. But Temple University psychology professor Robert W. Weisberg’s research suggests just the opposite. Prof. Weisberg has studied creative geniuses including Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso—and has concluded that there is no such thing as a born genius. Most creative giants work ferociously hard and, through a series of incremental steps, achieve things that appear (to the outside world) like epiphanies and breakthroughs.

Prof. Weisberg analyzed Picasso’s 1937 masterpiece Guernica, for instance, which was painted after the Spanish city was bombed by the Germans. The painting is considered a fresh and original concept, but Prof. Weisberg found instead that it was closely related to several of Picasso’s earlier works and drew upon his study of paintings by Goya and then-prevalent Communist Party imagery. The bottom line, Prof. Weisberg told me, is that creativity goes back in many ways to the basics. “You have to immerse yourself in a discipline before you create in that discipline. It is built on a foundation of learning the discipline, which is what your music teacher was requiring of you.”

6. Grit trumps talent.

In recent years, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth has studied spelling bee champs, Ivy League undergrads and cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.—all together, over 2,800 subjects. In all of them, she found that grit—defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals—is the best predictor of success. In fact, grit is usually unrelated or even negatively correlated with talent.

Tough on the podium, Mr. K was always appreciative when he sat in the audience. Above, applauding his students in the mid-1970s. Arthur Montzka

Prof. Duckworth, who started her career as a public school math teacher and just won a 2013 MacArthur “genius grant,” developed a “Grit Scale” that asks people to rate themselves on a dozen statements, like “I finish whatever I begin” and “I become interested in new pursuits every few months.” When she applied the scale to incoming West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher were less likely to drop out of the school’s notoriously brutal summer boot camp known as “Beast Barracks.” West Point’s own measure—an index that includes SAT scores, class rank, leadership and physical aptitude—wasn’t able to predict retention.

Prof. Duckworth believes that grit can be taught. One surprisingly simple factor, she says, is optimism—the belief among both teachers and students that they have the ability to change and thus to improve. In a 2009 study of newly minted teachers, she rated each for optimism (as measured by a questionnaire) before the school year began. At the end of the year, the students whose teachers were optimists had made greater academic gains.

7. Praise makes you weak…

My old teacher Mr. K seldom praised us. His highest compliment was “not bad.” It turns out he was onto something. Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck has found that 10-year-olds praised for being “smart” became less confident. But kids told that they were “hard workers” became more confident and better performers.

“The whole point of intelligence praise is to boost confidence and motivation, but both were gone in a flash,” wrote Prof. Dweck in a 2007 article in the journal Educational Leadership. “If success meant they were smart, then struggling meant they were not.”

8.…while stress makes you strong.

A 2011 University at Buffalo study found that a moderate amount of stress in childhood promotes resilience. Psychology professor Mark D. Seery gave healthy undergraduates a stress assessment based on their exposure to 37 different kinds of significant negative events, such as death or illness of a family member. Then he plunged their hands into ice water. The students who had experienced a moderate number of stressful events actually felt less pain than those who had experienced no stress at all.

“Having this history of dealing with these negative things leads people to be more likely to have a propensity for general resilience,” Prof. Seery told me. “They are better equipped to deal with even mundane, everyday stressors.”

Prof. Seery’s findings build on research by University of Nebraska psychologist Richard Dienstbier, who pioneered the concept of “toughness”—the idea that dealing with even routine stresses makes you stronger. How would you define routine stresses? “Mundane things, like having a hardass kind of teacher,” Prof. Seery says.

My tough old teacher Mr. K could have written the book on any one of these principles. Admittedly, individually, these are forbidding precepts: cold, unyielding, and kind of scary.

But collectively, they convey something very different: confidence. At their core is the belief, the faith really, in students’ ability to do better. There is something to be said about a teacher who is demanding and tough not because he thinks students will never learn but because he is so absolutely certain that they will.

Decades later, Mr. K’s former students finally figured it out, too. “He taught us discipline,” explained a violinist who went on to become an Ivy League-trained doctor. “Self-motivation,” added a tech executive who once played the cello. “Resilience,” said a professional cellist. “He taught us how to fail—and how to pick ourselves up again.”

Clearly, Mr. K’s methods aren’t for everyone. But you can’t argue with his results. And that’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Ms. Lipman is co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of “Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations,” to be published by Hyperion on Oct. 1. She is a former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Portfolio.





Bestowing the Gift of Self-Confidence to Students

7 12 2014

The Gift of Self-Confidence

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

            One of the most important gifts that a teacher can impart to a student is the gift of self-confidence.  To succeed at anything, a person must believe that success is possible.  Many students lack the belief that they could possibly be successful in school or anywhere else; as a result, these same people have difficulty succeeding in life. Students who doubt their abilities often lack any motivation to try.  If a person does not try, they have no possibility of succeeding.  As a result, an educator must first impart the ability to believe in oneself before the student can begin to succeed. Educators must become Peter Pan to help students fly.

When I was teaching in an Alternative Education, I was amazed at the students who had no desire to do well in school or even to attempt to do well in school.  After getting to know these students, I discovered that most of them had suffered so many humiliating failures at school that they believed that they were not capable of learning. They found it was less painful to do nothing, than to attempt anything and fail.  To continually have the belief that they could not succeed reinforced was just too painful for them.  Some of them used outrageous behavior as a way of avoiding this failure. I remember one particular student, Juan, who would not stay in his seat, sang loudly and yelled obscenities across the room to avoid a writing assignment. To reach students like Juan, I had to break down their barriers, get to know them as individuals, persuade them that I was their advocate and I was going to show them how to be successful by celebrating even their smallest achievement.  Being successful can be  rewarding, but to convince these students of that, the teachers needs to break successful behavior into its smallest components and reward for the successful completion of each small step.  For example, I began by rewarding students for coming to class prepared.  Each student who had a pencil and paper was rewarded with a small piece of candy.  Next I created a chart on the board showing the relationship of how a student would feel if he brought this parents a report cards with all “A’s” on it compared to how he would feel if he brought his parents a report card with all “F’s” on it.  Helping a student understand that happiness is directly connected to their success in school is an important step to motivating them to want to succeed.

Students who feel socially inept are often unhappy at school.  Girls, especially, suffer from social bullying that goes unnoticed by educators.  Our society puts so much emphasis on physical beauty and social position in school that students who do not fit the norm are often isolated.  Girls often exclude these girls from social situations and do not include them even in conversations.  Shunning can be cruel treatment that can cause scars that last a lifetime.  Some of this bullying takes the form of cruel comments in social media or scathing remarks made in a classroom or a hallway.  Students who suffer from these vicious assaults lose their self-esteem and as a result, do poorly academically or feel badly about continuing their education because it is too painful.   As an educator, protecting and supporting students’ self-esteem should be one of our goals. Helping students learn to accept and embrace people who are different from them should be another. For students to do well, all students must feel safe and appreciated.

When teachers are writing goals for their classrooms, academic goals are only one dimension of education.  Helping a student feel safe and good about his ability to succeed should be high on the list of objectives. Helping a student accept that others may differ from him, but should still included  in the community without ridicule or attack.   School should prepare students to succeed in life.  If a student has doubts or is not empowered with self-confidence, he cannot succeed.  Like Peter Pan, teachers must bestow the gift of self-confidence.

Posted by Jill Jenkins 





Study: Self-regulation helps kindergartners

24 11 2014

CREDIT: LILLIAN MONGEAU/EDSOURCE TODAY

Study: Self-regulation helps kindergartners

  • Students in their first years of school have a lot of new ground to cover, from steps along the road to reading to beginning math concepts. But one of their most important tasks may be learning how to master themselves.

A new study from New York University researchers Clancy Blair and C. Cybele Raver links a kindergarten program that specifically promotes “executive functions” – such as self-control, paying attention and planning – with academic improvements that persist beyond kindergarten.

Authors of the study say that students in high-poverty schools were especially likely to benefit from learning self-regulation skills, suggesting that a focus on those skills in early elementary education “holds promise for closing the achievement gap.”

The study evaluated the impact of a kindergarten-based program called Tools of the Mind. The program is a set of classroom practices designed to help young children master higher-level cognitive skills while also learning literacy, math and science aligned with the Common Core standards.

Tools of the Mind emphasizes classroom practices such as setting goals, working with learning partners, movement games and using dramatic play that is tied to literature and stories.

The two-year study, which compared children in a traditional kindergarten program to students in a Tools of the Mind program, involved 759 children in 29 Massachusetts schools.

Students in the Tools of the Mind program were better able to sustain attention despite distractions, had better working memory and were more engaged than those students in traditional kindergarten classes. In addition, the students in Tools of the Mind had greater improvements in math, reading and vocabulary when compared to the control group.

The study authors emphasize that the program can be put in place without costly resources and support beyond professional development for teachers. That, they suggest, may make the approach especially valuable for schools in high-poverty areas.





25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How Was School Today?’ Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?”

1 09 2014

And every day I get an answer like “fine” or “good,” which doesn’t tell me a whole lot.

AND I WANT TO KNOW A WHOLE LOT!!!!

Or at least get a full sentence. So the other night, I sat down and made a list of more engaging questions to ask about school. They aren’t perfect, but I do at least get complete sentences, and some have led to some interesting conversations… and hilarious answers… and some insights into how my kids think and feel about school.

2014-08-29-25ways.jpg

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

*****

So far, my favorite answers have come from questions 12, 15 and 21. Questions like the “alien” one give kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before.

And the answers we get are sometimes really surprising. When I asked question 3, I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean or bully, but in the hope they’d get the chance to work with other people.

As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them — but I know it’s going to be worth the work.

This post originally appeared on Simple Simon and Company.





12 Dr Seuss Quotes To Refresh Your Perspective On Life & Make You Feel Spectacular

29 08 2014

Dr Seuss Quotes It was first grade and it was my turn to read a book in front of the class. I was terrified to say the least. I spent days agonizing over the perfect book. I wanted it to be inspirational. I wanted it to keep the other kids’ attention. I wanted it to be well, …great. After searching hi and lo I finally settled on a Dr. Seuss book. how-the-grinch-stole-christmas

It was easy to read, everyone loved how it rhymed, and it actually had a good message too. It was a hit! And I’ve been a Dr. Seuss fan ever since. My family will tell you that one of my favorite Christmas traditions is watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas every year. I can hear the song now… “You’re a mean one…Mr….” (you totally just finished the song in your head didn’t you…don’t lie ;-))

Anyway, it’s been a loooong time since first grade but today I would still like to share some timeless Dr. Seuss wisdom with you. So gather around class and listen up…

12 Dr. Seuss Quotes To Refresh Your                                                                                                  Perspective On Life & Make You Feel Spectacular

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#1

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Cherish the good memories and let go of the bad. You have the power to focus on whatever you choose. Smile at each good memory and realize they are gifts that you can hold onto forever.

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#2

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Enjoy today. Live in the moment. But also have positive expectation. Don’t live for the future but plan for it, embrace it, and set yourself up to look forward to it. Do things today that your future self with thank you for.

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#3

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

Get your sleep, but then get up and live, work, and make a difference. You have one life to live so go and make it spectacular. The choice is yours.

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#4

“Think and wonder, wonder and think”

Never lose that child like wonder. Never stop learning, growing, and challenging yourself.

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#5

“THINK! You can think any think that you wish.” 

The mind is a powerful tool. Whatever you think about grows. Are you thinking negative, self damaging thoughts? Maybe you should “think” about changing those into positive, uplifting, and life changing thoughts. Just “think” about it ok? ;-)

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#6

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

The choice is yours. Stop blaming. Stop procrastinating. Stop letting fear paralyze you. Do you like the path you’re on? Is it leading you toward the things you want in life? If so…good keep on it. If not…then steer yourself in a different direction. When you take 100% responsibility for where you are in life and where you plan to be…amazing things will happen.

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#7

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Readers are leaders. Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight. It builds your self-image. Through reading we acquire knowledge to deal with any situation. And when we are well prepared, our self-image and self-confidence increase.

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#8

“Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

You can’t please everyone so stop trying. Focus on you. Study yourself. Find out what makes you tick. Then vow to be the best version of you that you can be. You have a unique gift and a special purpose. Be proud, be purposeful, and don’t ever apologize for being you.

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#9

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.”

If you found out you had one week to live, would you change anything? Try to remember that none of us are promised a tomorrow. Live each day on purpose. Be intentional about your life and the legacy you will leave behind.

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#10

“Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act.”

I don’t know about you but life turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. There are good days and bad days. Seasons of joy and seasons of sorry. Try to remember that everyone you meet is going through the same great balancing act. Everyone has their own battles, struggles, and sorrows. Show compassion wherever you can…even when undeserving.

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Never underestimate the difference that you can make. Even in small things.  Don’t wait for other people to take action. Make the first move. Be the first to apologize. Send that text, write that email, say what you need to say. You be the one to make things better.

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#12

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And You are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

What are you going to do with the God-given gifts, talents, and abilities you have? It’s up to you. The decision is yours. Only time will tell…

– See more at: http://www.efficientlifeskills.com/12-dr-seuss-quotes-to-refresh-your-perspective-on-life-make-you-feel-spectacular





 5 Ways to Help Your Students Become Better Questioners

22 08 2014

 

AUGUST 18, 2014

The humble question is an indispensable tool: the spade that helps us dig for truth, or the flashlight that illuminates surrounding darkness. Questioning helps us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change.

That makes it a most precious “app” today, in a world where everything is changing and so much is unknown. And yet, we don’t seem to value questioning as much as we should. For the most part, in our workplaces as well as our classrooms, it is the answers we reward — while the questions are barely tolerated.

To change that is easier said than done. Working within an answers-based education system, and in a culture where questioning may be seen as a sign of weakness, teachers must go out of their way to create conditions conducive to inquiry. Here are some suggestions (based on input from question-friendly teachers, schools, programs, and organizations) on how to encourage more questioning in the classroom and hopefully, beyond it.

How to Encourage Questioning

1. Make It Safe

Asking a question can be a scary step into the void. It’s also an admission to the world (and more terrifyingly, to classmates) that one doesn’t know the answer. So teachers must somehow “flip the script” by creating an environment where questioning becomes a strength; where it is welcomed and desired. The Right Question Institute, a nonprofit group that teaches inquiry skills in low-income schools, encourages teachers to run group exercises dedicated entirely to formulating questions (no answers allowed!) — with clear rules and guidelines to ensure that students’ questions aren’t judged or edited, and that all questions are written down and respected. There are many variations on this type of exercise. The second-grade teacher Julie Grimm uses a “10 by 10” exercise, in which kids are encouraged to come up with 10 great questions about a topic during a 10-minute span. But the bottom line is, designate some kind of safe haven in the classroom where all students can freely exercise the “questioning muscle.”

2. Make It “Cool”

This is a tough one. Among many kids, it’s cool to already know — or to not care. But what if we could help students understand that the people who ask questions happen to be some of the coolest people on the planet? As I discovered in the research for my book on inquiry, questioners thought of many of those whiz-bang gadgets we now love. They’re the ones breaking new ground in music, movies, the arts. They’re the explorers, the mavericks, the rebels, making the world a more interesting place — and having a heck of a time themselves. How cool is that?

3. Make It Fun

Part of the appeal of “questions-only” exercises is that there’s an element of play involved, as in: Can you turn that answer/statement into a question? Can you open your closed questions, and close your open ones? There are countless ways to inject a “game” element into questioning, but here’s an example borrowed from the business world: Some companies use a practice called “the 5 whys,” which involves formulating a series of “why” questions to try to get to the root of a problem. Kids were practically born asking “why” questions, so why not allow them to use that innate talent within a structured challenge? Or, show them how to use the “Why/What if/How” sequence of questioning as a fun way to tackle just about any problem. Whatever the approach, let kids tap into their imaginations and innate question-asking skills in ways that make inquiry an engaging part of a larger challenge.

4. Make It Rewarding

Obviously, we must praise and celebrate the questions that are asked — and not only the on-target, penetrating ones, but also the more expansive, sometimes-offbeat ones (I found that seemingly “crazy questions” sometimes result in the biggest breakthroughs). Help create a path for students to get from a question to a meaningful result. A great question can be the basis of an ongoing project, a report, an original creation of some kind. The point is to show that if one is willing to spend time on a question — to not just Google it but grapple with it, share it with others, and build on it — that question can ultimately lead to something rewarding and worthwhile.

5. Make It Stick

If the long-term goal is to create lifelong questioners, then the challenge is to make questioning a habit — a part of the way one thinks. RQI’s Dan Rothstein says it’s important to include a metacognitive stage in question-training exercises wherein kids can reflect on how they’ve used questioning and articulate what they’ve learned about it, so they can “pave a new neural pathway” for lifelong inquiry. As for the behavioral habits associated with good questioning, here are a few: Questioners train themselves to observe everyday surroundings with “vuja de” eyes that see the familiar in fresh ways; they’re always on the lookout for assumptions (including their own) that should be questioned; and they’re willing to ask questions that might be considered “naïve” by others.

So ask yourself this beautiful question: How might I encourage more questioning in my classroom? And how might I instill the habit of questioning in my students? After all, knowing the answers may help them in school, but knowing how to question will help them for life. I look forward to your thougths — and questions! — in the comments area.





How to turn every child into a “math person”

13 08 2014

How to turn every child into a “math person”

Last month, the US Math Team took second place in the International Math Olympiad—for high school students—held in Cape Town, South Africa. Since 1989, China has won 20 out of 27 times (including this year), and in the entire history of the Olympiad, the US Math Team has won only 4 out of 55 times, so second place is a good showing. According to the American Mathematical Association website: “team leader Loh noted that the US squad matched China in the individual medal count and missed first place by only eight points.”

Reading about the US Math Team’s performance in the Olympiad this year takes me back to my senior year of high school in 1977 when, having taken 9th place in the US Math Olympiad, I was invited to travel to the International Math Olympiad in Belgrade as an alternate to the 8-member US Math Team. I chose not to go to Belgrade because the Olympiad conflicted with the National Speech Tournament, where my team couldn’t have tied on points for first place without me—while the US Math Team won without needing my help. This profoundly shaped my perception of myself as a “math person.”

Left: an article from 1976 where Miles placed 23rd in the US Math Olympiad; top: in 1977 Miles placed 9th in the competition; bottom: questions from the 1977 USA Math Olympiad.

More than 36 years later, I have come to the view that almost everyone should think of herself or himself as a “math person.” In our column “There’s one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don’t,” Noah Smith and I wrote this about the often-heard statement: “I’m just not a math person.”

We hear it all the time. But the truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth—that of inborn genetic math ability.

Not everyone agrees with us. Noah and I got some pushback for our rejection of the idea that inborn math ability is the dominant factor in determining math skill. So I did some more reading in the psychology literature on nature vs. nurture for IQ and for math in particular. The truth is even more interesting than the simple story that Noah and I told.

Math ability is not fixed at birth 

Three facts run contrary to the idea that inborn mathematical ability is a dominantfactor in determining whether or not someone is good at math compared to others of the same age.

First, it is a reasonable reading of the very inconsistent evidence from twin studies to think that genes account for only about half of the variation in mathematical skill among kids. For example, this 2007 National Institutes of Health Public Access twin study, using relatively transparent methods, estimates that genes account for somewhere in the range from 32% to 45% of mathematical skill at age 10. That leaves 55% to 68% of mathematical skill to be accounted for by other things—including differences in individual effort. (Other estimates of the percentage of variation of mathematical skill in kids due to genes range all the way from 19% to 90%. )

Second, a remarkable fact about IQ tests, including the mathematical components of IQ tests, is that every generation looks a lot smarter than the previous generation. This steady increase in performance on IQ tests is known as “the Flynn effect” after the political philosopher James Flynn, who discovered this remarkable fact. The American Psychological Association’s official report “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns” says:

… performance has been going up ever since testing began. The “Flynn effect” is now very well documented, not only in the United States but in many other technologically advanced countries. The average gain is about 3 IQ points per decade.

At that rate, an IQ test from 100 years ago would put an average American today at an IQ of 130—in the top 5% of everyone back then.  The American Psychological Association’s report goes on to say:

The consistent IQ gains documented by Flynn seem much too large to result from simple increases in test sophistication. Their cause is presently unknown, but three interpretations deserve our consideration. Perhaps the most plausible of these is based on the striking cultural differences between successive generations. Daily life and occupational experience both seem more “complex” (Kohn & Schooler, 1973) today than in the time of our parents and grandparents. The population is increasingly urbanized; television exposes us to more information and more perspectives on more topics than ever before; children stay in school longer; and almost everyone seems to be encountering new forms of experience. These changes in the complexity of life may have produced corresponding changes in complexity of mind.

In other words, although people a century ago were good at many things, many of them would have struggled with the kinds of abstract problems IQ tests focus on.

(As a simple example of how math standards have risen, my father tells me that when he was in high school, people thought calculus was too advanced for high school students. Nowadays, about one of every six high school students takes calculus in the US.)

Third (and I wish the research were clearer about this for math specifically), thefraction of differences in IQ that seem genetically linked increases dramatically with age. For children, about 45% of differences in IQ appear to be genetic, while for adults, about 75% of differences in IQ appear to be genetic. Think about that. How could it be that genes matter more and more as people get older—even though the older you get, the more environmental things have happened to you? What I think is the most plausible answer, is that the genes are influencing what people do and what they do in turn affects their IQ.

The “love it and learn it” hypothesis

No one yet knows exactly how genes, environment, and effort interact to determine mathematical skill. In light of the evidence above, let me propose what I call the “love it and learn it” hypothesisThis hypothesis has three elements:

  1. For anyone, the more time spent thinking about and working on math, the higher the level of mathematical skill achieved.
  2. Those who love math spend more time thinking about and working on math.
  3. There is a genetic component to how much someone loves math.

Despite emphasizing time spent on math as the driver of math skill, this can explain why identical twins look more alike on math skills than fraternal twins. Since time spent dealing with math matters, it allows plenty of room for the average person to be better at math now than a hundred years ago. And the effect of loving math on math experience and therefore math skill is likely to only grow with time.

To get better at math, act like someone who loves math

If the “love it and learn it” hypothesis is true, it gives a simple recommendation for someone who wants to get better at math: spend more time thinking about and working on math. Best of all: spend time doing math in the kinds of ways people who love math spend time doing math. Think of math like reading. Not everyone loves reading. But all kids are encouraged to spend time reading, not just for school assignments, but on their own. Just so, not everyone loves math, but everyone should be encouraged to spend time doing math on their own, not just for school assignments. If a kid has a bad experience with trying to learn to read in school, or is bored with the particular books the teacher assigned, few parents would say “Well, maybe you just aren’t a reader.” Instead, they would try hard to find some other way to help their kid with reading and to find books that would be exciting for their particular kid. Similarly, if a kid has a bad experience trying to learn math in school, or is bored with some bits of math, the answer isn’t to say “Well maybe you just aren’t a math person.” Instead, it is to find some other way to help that kid with math and to find other bits of math that would be exciting for their particular kid to help build her or his interest and confidence.

The way a teacher presents a mathematical principle or method in class may not work for you—or, as Elizabeth Green suggested in the New York Times, the whole American pattern of K-12 math instruction may be fatally flawed. If you loved math, you would think about that principle or method from many different angles and look up and search out different mathematical resources, until you found the angle that made most sense to you. Even if you don’t love math, that would be a good way to approach things.

Many people think that because they can’t understand what their math teacher is telling them, it means they can’t understand math. What about the possibility that your teacher doesn’t understand math? Some people are inspired to a life-long love of math by a great math teacher; others are inspired to a life-long hatred of math by an awful math teacher. If you are unlucky enough to have an awful math teacher, don’t blame math for your teacher’s failings.

Cathy O’Neil—who blogs at mathbabe.org—describes well what I like to call “slow-cooked math”:

There’s always someone faster than you. And it feels bad, especially when you feel slow, and especially when that person cares about being fast, because all of a sudden, in your confusion about all sort of things, speed seems important. But it’s not a race. Mathematics is patient and doesn’t mind.

Being good at math is really about how much you want to spend your time doing math. And I guess it’s true that if you’re slower you have to want to spend more time doing math, but if you love doing math then that’s totally fine.

I was lucky to have a dad and older brother who showed me a bit of math early on, in a way that was unconnected to school. Then in school, I spent at least as much time on math when I wasn’t supposed to be doing math as when I was. It was a lot more fun doing math when I wasn’t supposed to be doing math than when I was.

For one thing, when I did it on my own, I could do it my own way. But also, there were no time limits. It didn’t matter if it took me a long time. And nothing seemed like a failure.

I spent a lot of time doing math. And very little of that math was done under the gun of a deadline. I spent some time on literal tangents in geometry and trigonometry. But I spent a lot more time on figurative tangents, running into mathematical dead ends. When Euclid told King Ptolemy “there is no Royal Road to geometry,” it had at least two meanings:

  1. Everyone—even a king or queen—has to work hard if he or she wants to learn geometry or any other bit of higher math.
  2. The path to learning geometry, or math in general, is not always a straight line. You may have to circle around a problem for a long time before you finally figure out the answer.

What can be done

I feel acutely my own lack of expertise in math education for students younger than the college students I teach. Fortunately, there are a wealth of practical suggestions for teaching and learning math by others who know more than I do, or have a different perspective from their own experience.

Noah and I received many comments in response to our post but the comments I learned the most from were from these people, who let me turn their comments into guest posts on my blog:

In Green’s article “Why Americans Stink at Math,” she talks about how differently math is taught in Japanese classrooms, and how we should hope that we might someday get that kind of math instruction in the US. The key difference is that in Japan, the students are led by very carefully designed lessons to figure out the key math principles themselves. That kind of teaching can’t easily be done without the right kind of teacher training—teacher training that is not easy to come by in the United States.

But some teachers at least encourage their students to follow a “slow-cooked math” approach where they can dig in and wrap their heads around what is going on in the math, without feeling judged for not understanding instantly. Elizabeth Cleland gives a good description here of how she does it.

Even when a student is lucky enough to have good teachers at school, a little extra math on the side can help a lot. Kids who arrive at school knowing even a tiny bit of math will have more confidence in their math ability and will probably start out liking math more. Even quite young kids will be interested in a Mobius strip made out of paper where a special twist makes what looks like two sides into just one side.  And putting blocks of different lengths next to each other as in aMontessori addition strip board is exactly how I have always pictured addition in my head.

A Montessori addition strip board.Image via jsmontessori.com

Extra math doesn’t all have to come from parents. In some towns, enough Little League soccer coaches are found for almost every kid to be on a soccer team. And even I was once drafted as a Cub Scout Den Leader. If people realized the need, many more adult leaders for math clubs for elementary and middle school kids could be found. In addition to showing kids some things themselves, math club leaders can do a lot of good just by checking out and sorting through the growing number of great math videos and articles online, as well as old-style paper-and-ink books.

I use Wikipedia regularly as a math reference. (There is no reason to think Wikipedia is any less reliable than the typical math textbook; textbooks are not 100% error-free either.)  I have a post on logarithms and percent changes that is one of the most popular posts on my blog. (Maybe it is the evocation of piano keyboards and slide rules, or the before and after pictures of Ronald Reagan.) And Susan Athey, the first woman to win the John Bates Clark Medal for best American economist under forty, highly recommends Glenn Ellison’s Hard Math for Elementary School as a resource for math clubs. All of that just scratches the surface of the resources that are out there.

The obvious issue raised by the “love it and learn it” hypothesis is that some people may not start out loving math, and some may never love math. Acting as if you love math when you don’t may work, but it can be painful. So it is important to figure out what can be done to instill a love of math. Even if they only know a little math themselves, people who can get kids who don’t start out loving math to come to love it are a national treasure. As the brilliant business guru Clay Christensen (among others) has pointed out, in an age when lectures from the best lecturers in the world can be posted online, the kind of help students need on the spot is the help of a coach.

For too long, we have depended too heavily on overburdened math teachers whohave remarkably little time in school to actually teach math, and whom the system has deprived of the kind of training they need to teach math as well as it can be taught. It is time for all of us to take the responsibility for learning math and doing what we can to help others learn math–just as we all take responsibility for learning to read and doing what we can to help others learn to read.

Most of us who participated as kids in a sport or other competitive pursuit remember a coach who got us to put in a lot more effort than we ever thought we would. Math holds out the hope of victory not just in a human competition, but in understanding both the visible universe and the invisible Platonic universe. There is no impossibility theorem saying there can’t be math coaches in every neighborhood who make the average kid want to gain that victory.





Math- When Am I Ever Gonna Use This?

11 08 2014

by 

 When Am I Ever Gonna Use This?
Posted: 10/21/2012 11:40 am
 “When am I ever gonna use this?” As an eighth-grade algebra teacher, I hear this refrain at least once a week. It’s a difficult question to answer. I mean, when is the last time that your employer asked you to factor a polynomial or prove two polygons congruent? The truth is that most of us will never use the myriad of math facts and algorithms in our post-school lives. However, that does not mean that math does not have some valuable lessons for us. The following are lessons that can be learned in an algebra classroom and applied in your life. No calculator required.

Mistakes

Pencils come with erasers for a reason. Mistakes in a math classroom are inevitable. In fact, they are beneficial, as they often uncover misconceptions and maladaptive beliefs. We often believe that we must write our lives in ink and that mistakes permanently mar us. We try to hide them, turn our heads in shame. There is always a lesson in every error. Rather than crossing out the mistake, examine it and learn from it.

Growth at the Edge

I always want my students to be just slightly uncomfortable; I push them a little beyond their comfort zone because this is where the learning occurs. We don’t all have algebra teachers following us around in life, but we can still push ourselves past our self-imposed boundaries. Growth occurs at the edge of comfort and panic. Find that space and embrace it.

Take Risks

I can do anything with a student who is willing to try. I have respect for those who will volunteer even when they are unsure of their answer. They have learned that taking risks can bring reward in the form of a correct answer, a deeper understanding, or the respect of their peers. Life is no different. If you never risk anything, you will never gain anything either. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.

Break It Down

In algebra, students are presented with complex problems. One of the first skills they learn is to break a large problem into a series of simpler ones, focusing on one step at a time. When you feel overwhelmed in life by what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle, try breaking it into manageable tasks. You might just be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Eliminate the Unnecessary

“Six-year-old Suzy has four apples and 5-year-old Bobby has two. How many apples do they have together?” It’s pretty clear that this example has extraneous information, clutter that can be ignored without detracting from the answer. Examine your life. Do have unnecessary clutter that you can eliminate? Get rid of it and you will find clarity in what remains.

“See” the Effect

I train students to anticipate the effect of a step in a problem before they make it. I want their minds to always be slightly ahead of their pencil as they “see” the impact of a decision prior to carrying it out. This is beneficial in the world at large as well as it encourages thoughtful and deliberate decisions. If you understand effect, you can change the cause.

Think Logically

Every year I have students that attempt to “prove” lines parallel by stating that they look parallel. As tempting as that reasoning may be, it is simply not valid. Our minds are sometimes lazy and try to make assumptions without proof. Watch yourself and check to see if the data supports your conclusions. It’s good to listen to your gut, but don’t divorce it from your brain.

Communication

Every year I have students that can execute the mathematics perfectly, yet cannot communicate to anyone else how or why they made the decisions they did. Their work is then almost useless, as no else can understand or build upon their results. Our thoughts and ideas are only as good as our ability to communicate them to another. Learn to be clear in your words so that they may be understood.

Balance

“Whatever you do to one side, you have to do to another.” Algebra students across the country recite this line as they learn how to balance equations. Perhaps we should all be uttering this line as a reminder to create balance in our own lives. Remember that when you add something to one area of your life, you will need to make a change in another so that balance is restored.

Work Backwards

Sometimes my students face problems that feel impossible. They can’t even figure out the first step. I teach them to start from the goal and work backwards, teasing out the steps as they go along. In your life, start with your goals and figure out what you need to do to achieve them. By seeing the steps in reverse, even the loftiest dreams can be made possible. Try it.

Persevere

Math can be hard. So can life. In both cases, it takes perseverance and tenacity to see difficulties through until the end. The rewards that come from determination and dogged spirit are so much sweeter than those that come without the sweat. The only way that failure is certain is if you do not try.

Basics Matter

It’s difficult to understand algebra if you don’t know multiplication. Likewise, it’s difficult to find fulfillment if you’re not meeting your basic needs. Start at the beginning and make sure you have a strong foundation upon which to build.

Confidence

So many of my students enter my room in August convinced that they cannot “do” math. In my 11 years of teaching, I have yet to meet a student that was correct in this belief. My first job with these uncertain pupils is to convince them that they can. Until they believe in themselves, they will continue to fail. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is, “I can’t.” Stop lying. It may be scary to try, but just think of the possibilities.

Participate

One of my favorite quotes hangs right above the board in my classroom:

“Math is not a spectator sport.” — Jerry Mortensen

Neither is life. Don’t stand on the sidelines watching it unfold in front of you. Get out there and play!





Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding

6 08 2014

Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding

from http://www.edutopia.org/

What strategy doubles student learning? According to 250 empirical studies, the answer is formative assessment, defined by Bill Younglove as “the frequent, interactive checking of student progress and understanding in order to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.”

Unlike summative assessment, which evaluates student learning according to a benchmark, formative assessment monitors student understanding so that kids are always aware of their academic strengths and learning gaps. Meanwhile, teachers can improve the effectiveness of their instruction, re-teaching if necessary. “When the cook tastes the soup,” writes Robert E. Stake, “that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” Formative assessment can be administered as an exam. But if the assessment is not a traditional quiz, it falls within the category ofalternative assessment.

Alternative formative assessment (AFA) strategies can be as simple (and important) as checking the oil in your car — hence the name “dipsticks.” They’re especially effective when students are given tactical feedback, immediately followed by time to practice the skill. My favorite techniques are those with simple directions, like The 60 Second Paper, which asks students to describe the most important thing they learned and identify any areas of confusion in under a minute. You can find another 53 ways to check for understanding toward the end of this post, also available as a downloadable document.

In the sections below, we’ll discuss things to consider when implementing AFAs.

Observation: A Key Practice in Alternative Formative Assessment

A fundamental element of most AFAs is observation. In her Edutopia post, Rebecca Alber says there is much to learn by taking observational notes as students work in groups. “However,” she clarifies, “if it is quiet during this talk time, and they are watching you watch them, they are most likely lost.” Another Edutopia blogger, Elena Aguilar witnessed “a fantastic first grade Sheltered English teacher” who directed his students to respond to a story by making hand gestures and holding up picture cards. “In this way, the teacher was able to immediately see who was struggling with the concepts and provide corrective feedback.”

By methodically watching and recording student performance with a focused observation form, you can learn a lot about students’ levels of understanding in just a few moments. For example, on the Teach Like a Champion blog, watch how math teacher Taryn Pritchard uses an observation sheet, and note her description of how she pre-plans to assess students’ mastery levels in only ten seconds. Pre-planning methodical observations allow instructors to efficiently and effectively intervene when it counts most — the instant students start down the wrong path.

New to Alternative Formative Assessment? Start Slow

The National Capital Language Resource Center recommends the following when introducing alternative assessment for the first time:

  • Integrate alternative assessments gradually, while still using the traditional assessments.
  • Walk students through the rubrics and discuss expectations when you introduce assignments.
  • Learn to score alternative assessments yourself, and then gradually introduce students to self-evaluation.
  • Teach students how to thoughtfully give each other feedback as you introduce them to peer-response.

A Simple Way to Gain Information from Your Students: Ask Them

When preservice teachers are confused as to why their students performed poorly on an assignment, I gently say, “Did you ask them why?” After all, having learners use their own vernacular to articulate why they are stuck can be profoundly useful for identifying where to target support.

According to the American Institute of Nondestructive Testing, the simplest tool to encourage student self-assessment is evaluative prompts:

  • How much time and effort did you put into this?
  • What do you think your strengths and weaknesses were in this assignment?
  • How could you improve your assignment?
  • What are the most valuable things you learned from this assignment?

Learners can respond to those prompts using Padlet, a virtual corkboard where many computer users can simultaneously post their responses, followed by a focused whole-class discussion of students’ answers. The instructor doesn’t always have to develop prompts — students can invent and submit one or more potential exam questions and answers on relevant content. Tell them that you’ll include the best contributions on a forthcoming quiz.

Portfolios are a more complex form of ongoing self-assessment that can be featured during student-led conferences. James Mule, principal of St. Amelia Elementary School in New York, describes how children benefit from the student-led conferences that occur at his institution: “With the student in charge and the teacher acting as a facilitator, the authentic assessment gives students practice in self-evaluation and boosts accountability, self-confidence, and self-esteem.” Pernille Ripp’s Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension provides all the handouts needed.

The biggest benefit of integrating AFAs into your practice is that students will internalize the habit of monitoring their understanding and adjusting accordingly.

We created the following list as a downloadable reminder to post by your computer. In the comments section of this post, tell us which of these 53 ways you’ve used for checking on students’ understanding — or recommend other AFAs we should know about.

53 Ways to Check for Understanding
  1. Summary Poem Activity
    • List ten key words from an assigned text.
    • Do a free verse poem with the words you highlighted.
    • Write a summary of the reading based on these words.
  2. Invent the Quiz
    • Write ten higher-order text questions related to the content. Pick two and answer one of them in half a page.
  3. The 411
    • Describe the author’s objective.
  4. Opinion Chart
    • List opinions about the content in the left column of a T-chart, and support your opinions in the right column.
  5. So What? Journal
    • Identify the main idea of the lesson. Why is it important?
  6. Rate Understanding
  7. Clickers (Response System)
  8. Teacher Observation Checklist
  9. Explaining
    • Explain the main idea using an analogy.
  10. Evaluate
    • What is the author’s main point? What are the arguments for and against this idea?
  11. Describe
    • What are the important characteristics or features of the main concept or idea of the reading?
  12. Define
    • Pick out an important word or phrase that the author of a text introduces. What does it mean?
  13. Compare and Contrast
    • Identify the theory or idea the author is advancing. Then identify an opposite theory. What are the similarities and differences between these ideas?
  14. Question Stems
    • I believe that ________ because _______.
    • I was most confused by _______.
  15. Mind Map
    • Create a mind map that represents a concept using a diagram-making tool (like Gliffy). Provide your teacher/classmates with the link to your mind map.
  16. Intrigue Journal
    • List the five most interesting, controversial, or resonant ideas you found in the readings. Include page numbers and a short rationale (100 words) for your selection.
  17. Advertisement
    • Create an ad, with visuals and text, for the newly learned concept.
  18. 5 Words
    • What five words would you use to describe ______? Explain and justify your choices.
  19. Muddy Moment
    • What frustrates and confuses you about the text? Why?
  20. Collage
    • Create a collage around the lesson’s themes. Explain your choices in one paragraph.
  21. Letter
    • Explain _______ in a letter to your best friend.
  22. Talk Show Panel
    • Have a cast of experts debate the finer points of _______.
  23. Study Guide
    • What are the main topics, supporting details, important person’s contributions, terms, and definitions?
  24. Illustration
    • Draw a picture that illustrates a relationship between terms in the text. Explain in one paragraph your visual representation.
  25. KWL Chart
    • What do you know, what do you want to know, and what have you learned?
  26. Sticky Notes Annotation
    • Use sticky notes to describe key passages that are notable or that you have questions about.
  27. 3-2-1
    • Three things you found out.
    • Two interesting things.
    • One question you still have.
  28. Outline
    • Represent the organization of _______ by outlining it.
  29. Anticipation Guide
    • Establish a purpose for reading and create post-reading reflections and discussion.
  30. Simile
    • What we learned today is like _______.
  31. The Minute Paper
    • In one minute, describe the most meaningful thing you’ve learned.
  32. Interview You
    • You’re the guest expert on 60 Minutes. Answer:
      1. What are component parts of _______?
      2. Why does this topic matter?
  33. Double Entry Notebook
    • Create a two-column table. Use the left column to write down 5-8 important quotations. Use the right column to record reactions to the quotations.
  34. Comic Book
    • Use a comic book creation tool like Bitstrips to represent understanding.
  35. Tagxedo
    • What are key words that express the main ideas? Be ready to discuss and explain.
  36. Classroom TED Talk
  37. Podcast
    • Play the part of a content expert and discuss content-related issues on a podcast, using the free Easypodcast.
  38. Create a Multimedia Poster with Glogster
  39. Twitter Post
    • Define _______ in under 140 characters.
  40. Explain Your Solution
    • Describe how you solved an academic problem, step by step.
  41. Dramatic Interpretation
    • Dramatize a critical scene from a complex narrative.
  42. Ballad
    • Summarize a narrative that employs a poem or song structure using short stanzas.
  43. Pamphlet
    • Describe the key features of _______ in a visually and textually compelling pamphlet.
  44. Study Guide
    • Create a study guide that outlines main ideas.
  45. Bio Poem
    • To describe a character or person, write a poem that includes:
      • (Line 1) First name
      • (Line 2) 3-4 adjectives that describe the person
      • (Line 3) Important relationship
      • (Line 4) 2-3 things, people, or ideas the person loved
      • (Line 5) Three feelings the person experienced
      • (Line 6) Three fears the person experienced
      • (Line 7) Accomplishments
      • (Line 8) 2-3 things the person wanted to see happen or wanted to experience
      • (Line 9) His or her residence
      • (Line 10) Last name
  46. Sketch
    • Visually represent new knowledge.
  47. Top Ten List
    • What are the most important takeaways, written with humor?
  48. Color Cards
    • Red = “Stop, I need help.”
    • Green = “Keep going, I understand.”
    • Yellow = “I’m a little confused.”
  49. Quickwrite
    • Without stopping, write what most confuses you.
  50. Conference
    • A short, focused discussion between the teacher and student.
  51. Debrief
    • Reflect immediately after an activity.
  52. Exit Slip
    • Have students reflect on lessons learned during class.
  53. Misconception Check
    • Given a common misconception about a topic, students explain why they agree or disagree with it.

Other Assessment Resources

In Edutopia’s The Power of Comprehensive Assessment, Bob Lenz describes how to create a balanced assessment system.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) describes dozens of Formative Assessment Strategies.

The Assessment and Rubrics page of Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything website hosts many excellent assessment rubrics.

More Rubrics for Assessment are provided by the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Jon Mueller’s Authentic Tasks and Rubrics is a must see-resource in his Authentic Assessment Toolbox website.





In Teaching Algebra, the Not-So-Secret Way to Students’ Hearts

3 07 2014

from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/

 | December 9, 2013

interests300

Education researchers are beginning to validate what many teachers have long known — connecting learning to student interests helps the information stick. This seems to work particularly well with math, a subject many students say they dislike because they can’t see its relevance to their lives.

“When I started spending time in classrooms I realized the math wasn’t being applied to the students’ world in a meaningful way,” said Candace Walkington, assistant professor in the department of teaching and learning at Southern Methodist University. She conducted a year-long study on 141 ninth graders at a Pennsylvania high school to see whether tailoring questions to individual student interests could help students learn difficult and often abstract algebra concepts.

“We picked out the students who seemed to be struggling the most in Algebra I and we found that for this sub-group of students personalization was more effective.”

Researchers studied a classroom usingCarnegie Learning software called Cognitive Tutor, a program that has been studied frequently. In the study, half of the students chose one of several categories that interested them — things like music, movies, sports, social media — and were given an algebra curriculum based on those topics. The other half received no interest-based personalization. All the problems had the same underlying structure and were meant to teach the same concept.

Walkington found that students who had received interest-based personalization mastered concepts faster. What’s more, in order to ensure that learning was robust, retained over time, and would accelerate future learning, she also looked at student performance in a later unit that had no interest-based personalization for any of the students. “Students that had previously received personalization, even though it was gone, were doing better on these more difficult problems as well,” said Walkington.

[RELATED: Nine Tenents of Passion Based Learning]

She also found that struggling students improved the most when their interests were taken into account. “We picked out the students who seemed to be struggling the most in Algebra I and we found that for this sub-group of students that were way behind the personalization was more effective,” Walkington said. Specifically, the study tested students’ ability to turn story problems into algebraic equations — what’s called algebraic expression writing.

“That’s one of the most challenging skills to teach students because it’s a very abstract skill,” Walkington said. She hypothesizes that the abstract nature of the concepts actually allowed students to more easily generalize and apply the same knowledge to a wide variety of situations and to more difficult problems in later units.

Walkington is working to expand her study to all the ninth graders in a school district of 9,000 students. “The bigger, you make it the harder it is to tap into the interests of students,” Walkington said. But she’s confident that there are some general-interest categories that many students share, like sports and movies.

WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY

But can this tactic help a teacher with a class of 30 students that doesn’t use this particular math software? Teachers in the studied school asked this question, so Walkington developed apractical guide for them to use. She chose to conduct the study using the Carnegie blended learning curriculum because it was easy to layer on the interest-based personalization to the existing program. It also provided her with a wealth of data about how students approached the problems. That said, a teacher could use interest-driven questions without any math software.

From her guide:

Two Examples of Personalization
Personalization can be accomplished on simple mathematics story problems. For example, a typical algebra problem might read: “A particular assembly line in an automobile company plant can produce thirteen cars every hour.” Based on this scenario, students might be asked to write an expression or solve for how many cars are produced after certain numbers of hours. Below are some examples of how this problem could be personalized:
ShoppingThe website of your favorite clothing store, Hot Topic, sells thirteen superhero t-shirts every hour.
Computers: A recent video blog you posted about your life on YouTube gets thirteen hits every hour.
Food: Your favorite restaurant “Steak ‘n Shake” sells thirteen caramel pretzel shakes every hour.
Music: Pandora Internet radio plays thirteen of your favorite pop songs every hour.
Cell Phones:  On your new iPhone 5 you send your best friend thirteen texts every hour.
While these problems involve relatively simple modifications, our research has shown that this type of personalization is effective for improving student learning.

 

[RELATED: How the Power of Interest Drives Learning]

Helping students see algebra in their daily lives is one way to apply this technique. In the same way, video games have point systems that allow players to level up after they’ve won a certain number of points. Students understand these systems intimately, but aren’t often asked to think about them through the lens of algebra. Similarly, students have a sense of how often they text and how their texting habits compare to others, but they aren’t often asked to express that relationship in an equation. Helping students to see the math in their own lives could get them thinking differently.

Another way teachers can personalize algebra would be to ask questions that are likely to appeal to student interests. Walkington found that students find story problems that deal with social issues of communicating with family and friends accessible. Concepts of work and business were less accessible, as were problems that dealt with physics concepts like motion, time, and space. Problems based on home references like pets were more interesting to students and garnered better results. Using these broad guidelines, teachers can try to write questions that appeal to more students.

Walkington has also experimented with having students personalize their own math instruction, writing, sharing and solving story problems in small groups. She’s found that even students with relatively little math knowledge can create complex story problems and express them with algebra if there’s interest in the topic. This is a great way to have students construct their own knowledge while applying it to their passions.

A great time to use this tactic is when introducing an abstract idea or foundational topic in algebra. That’s when educators will see the most benefit of grounding the topic in student interests, Walkington said. It’s important to elicit student interest in the math concepts, however, and not just the question’s topic. This intervention could work well with struggling students too.

“We have to layer the algebra onto those relationships that already exist,” Walkington said. “And that’s not an obvious thing because it doesn’t look anything like algebra at first. It just looks like a relationship.” She’s confident from her own experience of learning to love math that when students see its applicability to things they care about, they learn more easily and deeply.





Top 12 Summer Tips for Top Teachers

3 07 2014
JULY 1, 2014

During summer days, if you’re a top teacher, you’ll take time to improve your best asset — you. If somehow it’s not clear why that’s so important, look at it this way: when financial times are tight, our schools can improve the bottom line in four ways, three which aren’t beneficial for us as teachers.

  1. They can cut teachers and staff.
  2. They can cut benefits.
  3. They can lower quality.
  4. We teachers can become more productive and better at our jobs.

The best choice for our students, schools, and us is #4 — becoming better teachers. But how? We’re so tired!

Here are 12 tips that I use to level up every summer.

1. Rework the Worst to Be the Best

Based on student feedback, rework your least engaging lessons to make them the most exciting lessons the next year. Create costumes or comb thrift shops, make room decorations, and spend time inventing powerful learning experiences. Top teachers never settle.

2. Prepare Platforms

Reevaluate online platforms and learn what you could be doing. Revisit your favorite sites to see what new features they’ve added. You can’t paint your room every year, but you can apply a new theme to your Ning and give the class wiki a facelift!

3. Record and Prepare Your Digital Persona

Many teachers use videos to enhance instruction. Using Sophia and Office Mix for PowerPoint, I am recording the screencasts for the first few weeks of school. Sometimes I even grab my iPhone and record a message for my students in an odd place like on top of a zip line platform or after rafting a river. These personal connections help enhance our relationship.

4. Learn and Share

Read, watch videos, and share what you’ve learned. A powerful network of educators is emerging on Goodreads. You can read friends’ book recommendations and create a personal book challenge. (If you read on Kindle and link your Amazon account to Goodreads, it tracks your progress automatically.) You can write book reviews, tweet, or blog what you’ve learned. The discipline of writing book reviews will help you remember. Plus, educators who care share.

5. Connect with Colleagues

Educators can be so inspiring. Take time to read blogs and learn best practices. The summer is a perfect time to join Twitter chats or listen to educational Internet radio.

6. Revitalize Your Physical Health

Your health impacts your mood and your ability to perform at peak levels. (See my post 12 Choices to Step Back from Burnout for more on this.) In the summer, I run or walk first thing in the morning, drink lots of green tea, and catch up on rest. What is your plan?

7. Disconnect Completely

Be a human being, not a human doing. Experience life — don’t just take pictures of others doing it. Be unafraid to go where cellular signals do not break the underbrush. When you disconnect, you’ll return with renewed energy that comes from reestablishing relationships. You’ll think more clearly after having your thought patterns uninterrupted by tweets, beats, and the bleats of an always-on society.

8. Embrace Change

Some people are afraid of change. Others don’t want to change because it makes them feel dumb. Here’s the thing — the longer you wait to change, the dumber you will feel. Intentionally push yourself out of your comfort zone. Go new places. Do new things. Buy a new outfit. Wear your hair in a new way. Try a new tool.

9. Tinker

Do you remember those summer days long ago? Your parents asked you what you did, and you answered, “I just messed around.” Well, you can still take time to mess around. I’m tinkering with ClassDojo and learning everything I can about the Maker movement and 3D printers. I’m tinkering with apps and a new Chromebook. Summer is the time to tinker.

10. Laugh (a Lot)

Laughter is good for you. In the car, look up jokes and read them to your fellow travelers. Eventually you’ll find one that has you howling with happy tears in mobile reverie.

11. Set Goals and Remember Who You Are

Set goals or revise those you’ve already written. Where do you want to be next summer, next year, or in five years? Take time to update your goals and review them daily.

12. Be Prepared to Hit a Home Run on the First Day: Be “The Babe”

If you’re watching baseball this summer, there’s nothing more exhilarating than when a hitter slams a home run on the first at bat. Then, if he does it another time, everyone is even more wowed and amazed. Here are just a few resources to get you thinking this summer about making that strong start in the first few days of school:

As for me, I will be prepared to be the Babe — a Babe Ruth of teachers, that is. I’m going to slug a jaw-dropping, mind-bending home run. I’m going to work to impress my parents with the first supply list sent home. You get one chance to create a first impression. The rest of your year will benefit if you can come out of the dugout with your Louisville slugger in hand, ready to slam it home.

Happy Summer!

So have an awesome, funny, happy, sensational, disconnected, connected blast of a summer, my friends. Come back better than ever, because you will make the difference in your school this next year. Be epic. Be awesome. Be the kind of teacher our world needs today.

Level up your learning, and your students will, too!





8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

31 05 2014

POST WRITTEN BY: MARC CHERNOFF

8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

 

8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

“The best way out is always through.”
―Robert Frost

“Today, I’m sitting in my hospital bed waiting to have both my breasts removed.  But in a strange way I feel like the lucky one.  Up until now I have had no health problems.  I’m a 69-year-old woman in the last room at the end of the hall before the pediatric division of the hospital begins.  Over the past few hours I have watched dozens of cancer patients being wheeled by in wheelchairs and rolling beds.  None of these patients could be a day older than 17.”

That’s an entry from my grandmother’s journal, dated 9/16/1977.  I photocopied it and pinned it to my bulletin board about a decade ago.  It’s still there today, and it continues to remind me that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.  And that no matter how good or bad I have it, I must wake up each day thankful for my life, because someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.

Truth be told, happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.  Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles.  Always look at what you have, instead of what you have lost.  Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts; it’s what you do with what you have left.

Here are a few reminders to help motivate you when you need it most:

1.  Pain is part of growing.

Sometimes life closes doors because it’s time to move forward.  And that’s a good thing because we often won’t move unless circumstances force us to.  When times are tough, remind yourself that no pain comes without a purpose.  Move on from what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you.  Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.  Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.  Good things take time.  Stay patient and stay positive.  Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Remember that there are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you.  When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.

2.  Everything in life is temporary.

Every time it rains, it stops raining.  Every time you get hurt, you heal.  After darkness there is always light – you are reminded of this every morning, but still you often forget, and instead choose to believe that the night will last forever.  It won’t.  Nothing lasts forever.

So if things are good right now, enjoy it.  It won’t last forever.  If things are bad, don’t worry because it won’t last forever either.  Just because life isn’t easy at the moment, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh.  Just because something is bothering you, doesn’t mean you can’t smile.  Every moment gives you a new beginning and a new ending.  You get a second chance, every second.  You just have to take it and make the best of it.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

3.  Worrying and complaining changes nothing.

Those who complain the most, accomplish the least.  It’s always better to attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.  It’s not over if you’ve lost; it’s over when you do nothing but complain about it.  If you believe in something, keep trying.  Don’t let the shadows of the past darken the doorstep of your future.  Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any brighter.  Take action instead.  Let what you’ve learned improve how you live.  Make a change and never look back.

And regardless of what happens in the long run, remember that true happiness begins to arrive only when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.

4.  Your scars are symbols of your strength.

Don’t ever be ashamed of the scars life has left you with.  A scar means the hurt is over and the wound is closed.  It means you conquered the pain, learned a lesson, grew stronger, and moved forward.  A scar is the tattoo of a triumph to be proud of.  Don’t allow your scars to hold you hostage.  Don’t allow them to make you live your life in fear.  You can’t make the scars in your life disappear, but you can change the way you see them.  You can start seeing your scars as a sign of strength and not pain.

Rumi once said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most powerful characters in this great world are seared with scars.  See your scars as a sign of “YES!  I MADE IT!  I survived and I have my scars to prove it!  And now I have a chance to grow even stronger.”

5.  Every little struggle is a step forward.

In life, patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams, knowing that the work is worth it.  So if you’re going to try, put in the time and go all the way.  Otherwise, there’s no point in starting.  This could mean losing stability and comfort for a while, and maybe even your mind on occasion.  It could mean not eating what, or sleeping where, you’re used to, for weeks on end.  It could mean stretching your comfort zone so thin it gives you a nonstop case of the chills.  It could mean sacrificing relationships and all that’s familiar.  It could mean accepting ridicule from your peers.  It could mean lots of time alone in solitude.  Solitude, though, is the gift that makes great things possible.  It gives you the space you need.  Everything else is a test of your determination, of how much you really want it.

And if you want it, you’ll do it, despite failure and rejection and the odds.  And every step will feel better than anything else you can imagine.  You will realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path.  And it’s worth it.  So if you’re going to try, go all the way.  There’s no better feeling in the world… there’s no better feeling than knowing what it means to be ALIVE.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  Other people’s negativity is not your problem.

Be positive when negativity surrounds you.  Smile when others try to bring you down.  It’s an easy way to maintain your enthusiasm and focus.  When other people treat you poorly, keep being you.  Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are.  You can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you.  They do things because of them.

Above all, don’t ever change just to impress someone who says you’re not good enough.  Change because it makes you a better person and leads you to a brighter future.  People are going to talk regardless of what you do or how well you do it.  So worry about yourself before you worry about what others think.  If you believe strongly in something, don’t be afraid to fight for it.  Great strength comes from overcoming what others think is impossible.

All jokes aside, your life only comes around once.  This is IT.  So do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you smile, often.

7.  What’s meant to be will eventually, BE.

True strength comes when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.  There are blessings hidden in every struggle you face, but you have to be willing to open your heart and mind to see them.  You can’t force things to happen.  You can only drive yourself crazy trying.  At some point you have to let go and let what’s meant to be, BE.

In the end, loving your life is about trusting your intuition, taking chances, losing and finding happiness, cherishing the memories, and learning through experience.  It’s a long-term journey.  You have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting every step of the way.  Laugh at the confusion, live consciously in the moment, and enjoy your life as it unfolds.  You might not end up exactly where you intended to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be.  (Read A New Earth.)

8.  The best thing you can do is to keep going.

Don’t be afraid to get back up – to try again, to love again, to live again, and to dream again.  Don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart.  Life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.  There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong.  And you might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t.  When you feel like quitting, remember that sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.  Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.

Yes, life is tough, but you are tougher.  Find the strength to laugh every day.  Find the courage to feel different, yet beautiful.  Find it in your heart to make others smile too.  Don’t stress over things you can’t change.  Live simply.  Love generously.  Speak truthfully.  Work diligently.  And even if you fall short, keep going.  Keep growing.

Awake every morning and do your best to follow this daily TO-DO list:

  1. Think positively.
  2. Eat healthy.
  3. Exercise today.
  4. Worry less.
  5. Work hard.
  6. Laugh often.
  7. Sleep well.

Repeat…

The floor is yours…

What helps you stay motivated when you’re struggling?  What’s something positive you try to keep in mind when everything seems to be going wrong?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.





Are you sick of highly-paid teachers?

26 05 2014

Are you sick of highly-paid teachers?

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine or ten months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do — babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and planning — that equals 6-1/2 hours).

So each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET’S SEE….

That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6-1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000.

$50,000/180 days = $277.77 per day / 30 students = $9.25 / 6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student — a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)

WHAT A DEAL!!!!





11 Things Famous Artists And Cultural Figures Can Teach You About Creativity

17 05 2014

11 Things Famous Artists And Cultural Figures Can Teach You About Creativity

Posted: 05/16/2014 8:41 am EDT Updated: 05/16/2014 8:00 pm EDT

Print Article

JONAS MEKAS

How about: “What does creativity mean?”

Successful originators, behold: 11 things famous artists and cultural figures can teach you about creativity. (You can watch the full film above.)

1. “I’ve never written a note of music for money, because money is not inspiring. If anything, it gets in the way of things.” -Hans Zimmer

2. “True creativity comes from restriction and limitation.” -Paul Schrader

creativity

3. “I think if it wasn’t for my creativity, I would probably be dead now.” -Tracey Emin

4. “I feel like we live in a culture where people are content at just being good enough. To be a viable artist or musician or filmmaker, you really had to master your craft. To be a photographer, you had to understand your camera, your film, the developing process, the printing process. Now you don’t need to know any of that.” -Moby

5. “Most of us do not even know how to ask a question. Most of us do not see the root of the word ‘question’ is ‘quest’. Most of us don’t have a quest in our life.” -Richard Saul Wurman, TED founder

tracy emin

6. “I’ve been going through screening exercises, I’ve been rolling on cylinders, and meditation is very good because somehow it makes you lose your intellectual control.” -Johan Lindeberg

7. “If I wasn’t creative, I don’t know how I would function. I don’t know who I would be.” -Karen Elson

8. “I find it important to find these subversive people who have been driven away by the shame of social networking.This world where people who are living off of their phones and who are beating the shit out of human perception.” -Lola Montes Schnabel

creativity

9. “Creativity. All those creative people you are ruining my visual world. You are ruining my food. You are ruining everything I respect. All those schools that promote creativity. I would like to ban all of you to some distant island. Why don’t you just paint, or make films, or sing, or play music? Forget creativity.” -Jonas Mekas

10. “What I’ve learned to do – and just started doing this past year –- is painting on my lunch hour. I paint the actors in the film. This is just a way of generating more work from a single project.” -James Franco

11. “I’ve found music over the course of my life is slightly more astoundingly inspiring than great cinema.” -Mark Romanek

music

“Inspiring Creativity” is a short film created by Liberatum, directed Pablo Ganguli and Tomas Auksas, and presented by illy. Fun fact, James Rosenquist helped create the original illy logo, so the company has a history of fostering the arts.





Deciphering the teen brain and behavior

13 04 2014

Deciphering the teen brain and behavior

New science finds developmental stage lasts into 20s — which explains some trying behavior

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published: March 23, 2014, 6:00 AM

YOYO, you know? So GOMB! I’m LHHIMB!

You’re only young once, that is, so get off my back! I’m laughing hella hard inside my brain!

Actually, there’s much more than hysterical laughter and angry outbursts — and textspeak — happening in the brains of adolescents. Over the past decade, scientists have taken advantage of cutting-edge technology such as magnetic resonance imaging to peer deeply into the heads of young people.

What they have found is that long-accepted conventional wisdom about the developing human brain — that earliest training and conditioning are what matter most, because the game is up by age 3 or so — is not entirely true.

“We know from research that early childhood is a critical period,” said Jane Lanigan, an associate professor of human development at Washington State University Vancouver. “What we’ve learned is that adolescence is a second critical period.”

Parenting links

Jane Lanigan, associate professor of human development at Washington State University Vancouver, recommends a couple of websites for parents:

parenting247.org, posted by the University of Illinois

myparenthetical.com, free registration gets you many informative, snappy articles on parenting teens and tweens

Neuroplasticity keeps the brain learning

In a word, what we’ve learned recently about the developing brain is this: neuroplasticity. That’s the brain’s lifelong ability to learn new things and rewire itself.

It’s not as easy when you’re 70 as when you’re 20. But it’s not impossible, either. While the jury remains out on spendy brain-fitness programs, most scientists and medical professionals agree on the lifelong benefits of keeping your head working on enjoyable challenges, be it the daily Sudoku puzzle or those saxophone lessons you always wanted to try.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s going on between your ears during five essential stages of life.

In utero and infancy: The brain is building structure and forming connections. There are trillions of synapses in the newborn brain — twice as many as in the adult one — leading some to call it the most complex thing in the universe. Recent science has found that unborn and young children who experience traumatic stress — not to mention drugs and alcohol — may carry markers of it all their lives.

Years 1 to 6: The brain is like a fast-growing sponge, reaching 95 percent of its adult weight. Perception and reasoning, movement and emotions, planning and memory are all firing up, while the ancient, instinctive “lizard brain” is already on the job. Parents who nurture, stimulate and “chat up” their kids are building a firm lifelong foundation; parents who are overly negative or harsh are setting that foundation, too.

Years 7 to 22: The second stage of peak brain development is in early adolescence, making it another phase of high emotion and inconsistency. Hormones are coursing through the system while the prefrontal cortex, which controls impulses and makes reasoned decisions, is the last to mature. Teens should strive to think twice about taking risks; parents should keep lines of communication open and strive for a balance of understanding, patience and consistency.

“Adulthood”: The brain is reaching the peak of its power, and with it your ability to communicate, undertake and resolve challenges and strike a mature balance between rational, emotional and intuitive behavior. But the brain regions that matured last are also the first to start declining, eventually leading to slower processing speeds and spottier memory. Experts advise “lifelong learning” as well as standard health practices like healthy eating and exercise.

65 and better: Science is still teasing out details of the aging brain. Memory may be declining and speed slowing, but continuing to challenge your brain will spur the growth of new brain cells. New research suggests that some of the aging brain’s slowing may be caused by the huge amount of stuff that’s stored in there — a lifelong accumulation.

SOURCES: National Institutes of Health, National Geographic, The New York Times, Public Broadcasting Service, SharpBrains

Until you’re well into your 20s — and especially in your early- to midteen years, somewhere between 12 and 15 — that brain of yours remains a bustling construction, demolition and reconstruction site. Cells and connecting synapses are being grown, used and strengthened — or not used, pruned and replaced. Totally occupied by vast volumes of incoming information and sensation, and practicing up on bodily functions and feelings, the young brain’s necessary skill at mature decision-making and top-down control develops much later — last, in fact. Meanwhile a region called the amygdala — the seat of fear, emotional reactions and fight-or-flight instincts — is fully functioning from day one.

For parents of not-so-young children, knowing all that can help ease a life passage that’s fraught with conflict, risk, rapid changes, high emotion and little logic.

“The developmental phase and the dependency on parents goes well into the early 20s,” Lanigan said. “Early childhood is critical, but I’m concerned about … the message that nothing matters from age 3 on. The research does not support that.

“It’s a time of intense change,” she said. “They can go in all different directions. It can be very inconsistent.” Parents who respond with both understanding and consistency “are going to see better outcomes,” she said.

Training time

Red light. What do you do?

Stop and wait, look around and be safe, of course. Everybody knows that. Unless, that is, they’ve got “incomplete frontal lobe development,” Lanigan said.

The whole frontal lobe area, and in particular the prefrontal cortex that’s right behind your eyes and forehead, is the brain’s mature decision-maker — the part that considers: What if I just floor it and blast through the intersection? Even more broadly, what happens to the whole world if everybody starts blasting through intersections?

That kind of abstract, moral thinking — “I must follow the rules because they make sense for me, and also because all would be chaos if everybody stopped following rules” — doesn’t come early to the human brain. It comes with time and training, and the physical development and thickening of the gray matter in that frontal lobe.

Before that, Lanigan said, your fledgling frontal lobe just can’t compete with the excellent, early hardwiring of those emotion and quick-reaction areas. Result: Teenagers “aren’t able to think of all the factors they should. At that age, they may have gotten away from being completely egocentric, but they’re still feeling invincible,” Lanigan said. “There’s a lot going on in their decision-making, but the capacity to make really rational decisions is still limited.”

And while the newest science has found that the brain remains a building site for years longer than previously thought, it also remains true that a brain that spends lots of critical training time — those mid-teen years — strengthening that sense of invincibility isn’t likely to unlearn it. A teenager who repeats the thrill of blowing through a red light over and over again, lucking out and laughing each time, isn’t building up wisdom and restraint in the prefrontal cortex.

Lanigan laughingly cited a study that presented adolescents and adults two options: jumping off the edge of the Grand Canyon with a 50 percent chance of survival — or not. Nobody took the chance, but adolescents generally took “several seconds longer” to decide that the whole proposition was a loser. Scans of their brains showed activity in lots of different places — not just the underdeveloped frontal cortex — as they considered the idea. “It shows that their way of thinking about things is different,” Lanigan said.

According to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, adolescents are prone to impulsive or even risky behaviors, misreading or misinterpreting social cues and emotions, and getting into accidents and fights. They’re less prone to (all together now, parents) thinking before acting.

None of which means your kid can’t make good decisions or tell right from wrong, the AACAP points out, nor does it mean that appropriate consequences for behavior aren’t, well, appropriate — in fact they are vital teaching tools that help train the brain, and the more consistent the better. But parents and teachers who soften their standards slightly with some understanding and patience for churning behind the scenes — between the ears, that is — are going to have an easier time of it. They’ll probably earn their adolescent’s appreciation too — if not immediately, then in the long run.

“Sixteen or so is a time when many parents just let go. Maybe they think they’ve done everything they can do,” said Kathy Bobula, who teaches early childhood education and psychology at Clark College. “But your child still needs your support and guidance at 16. You need to keep at it.”

Bomber pilots, football players

The things adolescents spend time doing, and loving to do, have a serious influence on their brains, and therefore their whole lives, as they age. That’s why Bobula loves it when students get into volunteerism — and hates it when they bring cellphones to class. “Adolescents who get involved in service learning learn that that’s normal and good. That’s what’s hooking up in the brain,” she said. But adolescents “who play video games all day, who just satisfy their transient desires all day, well, that’s what’s hooking up in the brain. They sure get good at that,” she laughed. “They develop great thumb control and eye-hand coordination and they’ll probably grow up to be great bomber pilots.

“But that’s at the expense of deeper thoughts and conversations, moral choices, relating to people,” Bobula said.

It’s also at the expense of deep, long-term focus, Bobula said. Science has found that people who do whatever they do with one eye always on their cellphone — or TV, or whatever electronic distraction you choose — are not doing it very well. “There’s a pretty strong body of research showing that we don’t multitask effectively,” Lanigan said. “You’re not performing as efficiently as you like to think you are.”

Drop that essay or project to check your messages or satisfy that irresistible craving for a video fix of a cute kitty. Think you have that same train of thought, the same level of concentration when you return to the task? No way, Bobula said.

It gets worse. Bobula pointed out all the head-injury research that’s been done lately on football players and war veterans and flatly declared: “You damage that frontal lobe part, the part that does self-regulation of all types, you wind up a real jerk. You won’t stop when the light turns red. You won’t necessarily stop yourself in all sorts of situations where it’s appropriate to stop.”

Drugs and alcohol affect the growing teen brain differently and more dramatically than the adult brain. In an interview with the television show “Frontline,” leading brain researcher Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health said it’s a “particularly cruel irony of nature … that this time when the brain is most vulnerable is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.” Giedd said, “It may not just be affecting their brains for that night or even for that weekend, but for the next 80 years of their life.”

Strong foundation

Is anything more painful for a teenager than getting up in the morning (or afternoon)?

“The way schools and society are structured, adolescents don’t get to follow their natural circadian rhythms,” Lanigan said.

“The data is in. We’re sending them to school sleep-deprived,” said Bobula. “Why do we make our kids’ lives fit the bus schedule? Why do schools make them work against, rather than with, their own bodies? Don’t make them go to school so early.”

That’s these two teachers’ advice for the American education system. Their advice for parents is equally common sense: establish closeness and communication early and often. Set reasonably strict levels of parental monitoring and kid responsibility — what Lanigan calls “a traditional parenting style. That will give you a strong foundation to build upon.” It means knowing what your teen is doing, and where, and with whom.

“Not necessarily directing what they’re doing, but at least knowing,” said Lanigan. “There’s a pretty big block of research about parental monitoring. It definitely shows better outcomes for children whose parents do a high level of monitoring.”

Bobula is totally into telling it like it is: “I’m such an advocate of informing adolescents what’s going on in their heads. You will make some wrong decisions. You may find yourself acting weird. You may find your emotions so strong they’re overwhelming. You may find high school horrible.”

It’s all a test of your parenting Zen. When does your kid need support and when independence? When do you lean in close and when do you pull back? “It varies by family. The parents are the best judges. They’ll have an instinct for what’s typical and what’s more alarming for their child,” Lanigan said.

“Typical teen development includes a phase when they’re going to need to individuate. They often pull away,” she said. “It can be very frightening for parents. But it’s right on schedule.”

Photo of Scott Hewitt
Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter





A Better Way to Say Sorry

13 04 2014

A Better Way to Say Sorry from

http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/

Sorry

“Say sorry to your brother.”

“But he’s the one who–”

“Say it!” you insist, an edge of warning in your voice.

He huffs, rolls his eyes to the side and says flatly, “Sorry.”

“Say it like you mean it,” you demand.

“Sorrrrry,” he repeats, dragging out the word slowly with bulging eyes and dripping insincerity.

You sigh in defeat and turn to #2, “Now tell him you forgive him.”

“But he doesn’t even mean it!”

“Just say it!”

“iforgiveyou…” he mutters, looking down to the side dejectedly.

“Now be nice to each other.”

Harumphy silence.

This scenario might sound all too familiar– if not from your experiences as a parent, then at least your own experiences as a child. It’s easy to see how it isn’t always that effective. You, the teacher/parent/authority, probably benefit from it the most because now at least you can feel like you did something about it, allowing you to close the case. Problem solved… now stop bickering. You know inside, however, that the offended still feels bitter, because the apology was not sincere. And while it may seem like the offender got off easy– not even having to show proper remorse or use a sincere tone–he is actually the one who loses out the most. He not only learns a poor lesson that he can get away with lies and empty words, but does not have the opportunity to experience true reconciliation and restoration of relationships. He will probably continue inflicting similar offenses, feel less remorse than he should, and undergo less positive character change than he could have.

But what alternative do you have? What else are you supposed to do? It’s not like you can force a genuine apology and repentant heart out of him, right?

Actually, you can. It’s not 100%, but it’s a lot more % than the scenario you read above.I first heard this in a teacher training program. The speaker started off with a rant about how No one teaches children how to apologize properly these days. My ears perked up, because I didn’t really know of any way to teach them other than to… just make them say it: Sorry. I knew it was not very effective, but I hadn’t considered other methods. So I held my pen at the ready, and as he listed off the “proper way to apologize,” I scribbled his words down verbatim:

I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?

It made a lot of sense. It seemed a little tedious, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that each component was necessary. Even though that was all he said about it that day, it became an integral part of my classroom culture for years to come. That day, I went back to my classroom and got some stiff cardboard and wrote the prompts clearly, labeling the poster, “How to Say Sorry.” The next afternoon, I talked with the children about apologizing properly. We went over the importance of tone of voice and body language; when I used my brattiest voice and spat out, “Well FINE then, SOR-RY!” they all laughed, because the insincerity was so obvious and the scene so familiar. I demonstrated the importance of body language, crossing my arms and rolling my eyes to the side as I mumbled, “Sorry.” When I asked if it seemed like I meant it, they all gleefully cried out “NOOOO!!!” in unison. I did a few more impressions of pathetic “sorries,” and then we got down to business. I shared with them that apologies were pointless and meaningless if people didn’t feel like the offender meant it, and if the offender didn’t actually plan to change in the future. Then I went over the poster I had made, and outlined the following points:

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about.

Wrong: I’m sorry for being mean.
Right: I’m sorry for saying that nobody wants to be your friend.

2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change. This is also important to show the person you hurt that you really understand how they feel. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes! Sometimes, people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. Sometimes just showing understanding– even without an apology– is enough to make them feel better! 

Wrong: This is wrong because I got in trouble.
Right: This is wrong because it hurt your feelings and made you feel bad about yourself.

3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.

Wrong: In the future, I will not say that.
Right: In the future, I will keep unkind words in my head.

Now let’s practice using positive language. It’s hard at first, but you’ll get better. Can anyone think of a positive way to change these incorrect statements?

Wrong: In the future, I won’t cut.
(Right: In the future, I will go to the back of the line.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t push.
(Right: In the future, I will keep my hands to myself.)

Wrong: In the future, I won’t take your eraser.
(Right: In the future, I will ask you if I can borrow your eraser.)

4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s their decision. Hopefully, you will all try to be the kind of friends who will forgive easily, but that’s not something you automatically get just because you apologized. But you should at least ask for it.

As a teacher, I know that asking for forgiveness puts the offender in an uncomfortable and vulnerable place of humility. However, this seemingly obvious yet widely underused phrase is very, very powerful for both the offender and the offended. It is the key to reconciliation and often the first step in restoring friendship.

I also know that the second item, “This is wrong because…” is powerful in changing the longer-term behavior of the offending child. Forcing the child to put themselves in another’s shoes will increase empathy and help them understand better how they have hurt someone else. This exercise in trying to see themselves from someone else’s perspective can be very powerful.

After this talk, I had some volunteers come to the front to role-play some apologies. We paused at various points and reflected on how to improve the apology: was the body language sincere? Did the apologizer really capture how the other person felt? Sometimes, I would whisper instructions to one student to roll his eyes, look away, mumble, or phrase something a certain way. The students treated it like a game, trying to spot what was amiss in the apology. This was very effective, because when the time eventually came for real apologies, everyone knew we were all going by the same rules, and the expectation was set for a sincere, thorough apology.

When I first tried out this “new” old-fashioned apology with my students, I didn’t expect any long-lasting results. I just wanted to see what would happen. But what happened in the weeks and months following simply blew me away. It started with our weekly Friday afternoon class meetings. We already had a good thing going here, with the kids “throwing” kudos to each other with compliments and appreciations: “I’d like to give a kudo to John for asking me to play with him at recess,” or “I’d like to give a kudo to Kylie for working really hard on her writing this week!” It was cute, and students enjoyed both giving and receiving the kudos.

One week, I decided to review our apology lesson, and then asked the students if anyone needed to “clean-up” something that happened this week with an apology to someone in the classroom. When I asked, I meant for any volunteers to take their business outside. My first volunteer, however, started apologizing to her friend right there on the spot in front of the whole class. Before I could stop her, she began blubbering through her apology, reciting each line like she’d planned this for days. Maybe she had. I could see the relief on her face when her friend accepted her apology. The girls smiled shyly and I knew we were onto something good. Before I knew it, students were raising their hands left and right, eager to make amends with people they had offended. Some of the “offended” people hadn’t even realized that they had ever been wronged, but happily forgave anyway.

Then a boy raised his hand. A boy most of the kids did not like for all the usual reasons– he was bossy and rude and generally unpleasant to be around. He apologized to the whole class for being really, really annoying and stated his plans to change. I was among the many individuals exchanging puzzled but impressed glances, and indeed it was one big step in this child’s personal growth. It was especially heartwarming to see how his classmates interacted with him afterward. They really wanted to give him a second chance, and they sincerely tried to help him be his best. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to admit to the class that he was annoying, but it was a powerful first step in changing his relationships with everyone. While not perfect, his behavior improved greatly after this event and I am glad I gave him the tools and space to “reset” this way.

As you can imagine, this meeting took much longer than usual. In the weeks that followed, I had students take their apologies outside and every week, there were takers. Students relished in the opportunity to admit wrongdoing, share intent to change, and restore friendships. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. They walked out stiff and uneasy, and returned with bright smiles on their faces.

The kids weren’t the only ones to benefit from apologies. I did, too. There used to be times when I’d call on a student and the student wouldn’t be paying attention. The whole class would sit, waiting impatiently for the classmate to get up to speed and answer the question. Usually, it was the same kids that weren’t paying attention and held up the whole class. One day, surprising even myself, I stopped, turned to the offending student, and demanded, “Apologize.”

“Huh?”

“Apologize. To me.”

“Um…” he began, looking around bewildered, “I’m sorry for… not paying attention. This is wrong because… I wasn’t paying attention…”

“Try again.”

“…because you’re upset?” he offered.

“Nope.”

“…because I’m not learning?” he asked.

“Yes, and?”

“And because…” he glanced down nervously.

“Because,” I finished for him, “Now the whole class is waiting for you and you’re wasting our time.”

“Because the whole class–”

“Start from the beginning.”

Yeah, I can be pretty tough on them sometimes. Tough love.

He started again, “I’m sorry for not paying attention. This is wrong because I’m not learning and the whole class is waiting and I’m wasting their time. In the future, I will pay attention. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes,” I said, then turned to the others, “Class?”

The students nodded their heads and we resumed our lesson. No one missed a beat the rest of the day. The next time it happened, weeks later, the offending student was quick to apologize, articulating how her inattention affected herself and her classmates, and was quick to change. It was no longer a matter of embarrassment or shame, but simply acknowledging 1) what went wrong, 2) who was affected, 3) how to change, and 4) asking forgiveness. I couldn’t believe how much more focused all of my students were once we began these apologies for not paying attention! It was astoundingly more effective than giving them individual warnings. I think it had something to do with feeling beholden to the entire class. Either way, win for me, and win for them.

One day, my principal came to inform me that a couple of my students had gotten in a fight with some other kids during lunch. I started to let out a discouraged sigh when she continued to share with me how impressed she was with my students. Impressed?Turns out one of them quickly offered a thorough, 4-step apology. Immediately after, my other student also apologized for his part. She was totally floored by their responses, and wanted to find me to tell me what happened. While I was not that surprised that they were so good at apologizing (there tend to be a handful of children who get more practice than the rest…), I could not have been more proud! These real, meaningful apologies had made their way out of my classroom, onto the playground, and into the principal’s office! Maybe, just maybe, they would bring it into other spaces in their lives. A teacher can hope.

I’m not sure if my students carry this formal apology home, or if they even remember it in fifth grade. But I know it works, and I know I’ll be teaching it to my own children someday. Try it on your own kids sometime…you won’t be sorry!

Update: Have a kid who needs to say sorry more often than you’d like? Let’s do one better andprevent the problem in the first place!





14 Ways to Acquire Knowledge: A Timeless Guide from 1936

25 03 2014

by 

“Writing, to knowledge, is a certified check.”

The quest for intellectual growth and self-improvement through education has occupied yesteryear’s luminaries like Bertrand Russelland modern-day thinkers like Sir Ken Robinsonand Noam Chomsky. In 1936, at the zenith of the Great Depression, the prolific self-help guru and famous eccentric James T. Manganpublished You Can Do Anything! (public library) — an enthusiastic and exclamation-heavy pep-manual for the art of living. Though Mangan was a positively kooky character — in 1948, he publicly claimed to own outer space and went on to found the micronation of Celestia — the book isn’t without merit.

Among its highlights is a section titled 14 Ways to Acquire Knowledge — a blueprint to intellectual growth, advocating for such previously discussed essentials as the importance of taking example from those who have succeededand organizing the information we encounter, the power of curiosity, theosmosis between learning and teaching, the importance of critical thinking(because, as Christopher Hitchens pithily put it“what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”), the benefits of writing things down, why you should let your opinions be fluid rather than rigid, the art of listening,the art of observation, and the very core of what it means to be human.

14 WAYS TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE

  1.  PRACTICE

Consider the knowledge you already have — the things you really know you can do. They are the things you have done over and over; practiced them so often that they became second nature. Every normal person knows how to walk and talk. But he could never have acquired this knowledge without practice. For the young child can’t do the things that are easy to older people without first doing them over and over and over.

Most of us quit on the first or second attempt. But the man who is really going to be educated, who intends toknow, is going to stay with it until it is done. Practice!2. ASK

Any normal child, at about the age of three or four, reaches the asking period, the time when that quickly developing brain is most eager for knowledge. “When?” “Where?” “How?” “What?” and “Why?” begs the child — but all too often the reply is “Keep still!” “Leave me alone!” “Don’t be a pest!”

Those first bitter refusals to our honest questions of childhood all too often squelch our “Asking faculty.” We grow up to be men and women, still eager for knowledge, but afraid and ashamed to ask in order to get it.

Every person possessing knowledge is more than willing to communicate what he knows to any serious, sincere person who asks. The question never makes the asker seem foolish or childish — rather, to ask is to command the respect of the other person who in the act of helping you is drawn closer to you, likes you better and will go out of his way on any future occasion to share his knowledge with you.

Ask! When you ask, you have to be humble. You have to admit you don’t know! But what’s so terrible about that? Everybody knows that no man knows everything, and to ask is merely to let the other know that you are honest about things pertaining to knowledge.

  1. DESIRE

You never learn much until you really want to learn. A million people have said: “Gee, I wish I were musical!” “If I only could do that!” or “How I wish I had a good education!” But they were only talking words — they didn’t mean it.

Desire is the foundation of all learning and you can only climb up the ladder of knowledge by desiring to learn.

If you don’t desire to learn you’re either a num-skull [sic] or a “know-it-all.” And the world wants nothing to do with either type of individual.

  1. GET IT FROM YOURSELF

You may be surprised to hear that you already know a great deal! It’s all inside you — it’s all there — you couldn’t live as long as you have and not be full of knowledge.

Most of your knowledge, however — and this is the great difference between non-education and education — is not in shape to be used, you haven’t it on the tip of your tongue. It’s hidden, buried away down inside of you — and because you can’t see it, you think it isn’t there.

Knowledge is knowledge only when it takes a shape, when it can be put into words, or reduced to a principle — and it’s now up to you to go to work on your own gold mine, to refine the crude ore.

  1. WALK AROUND IT

Any time you see something new or very special, if the thing is resting on the ground, as your examination and inspection proceeds, you find that you eventuallywalk around it. You desire to know the thing better by looking at it from all angles.

To acquire knowledge walk around the thing studied. The thing is not only what you touch, what you see; it has many other sides, many other conditions, many other relations which you cannot know until you study it from all angles.

The narrow mind stays rooted in one spot; the broad mind is free, inquiring, unprejudiced; it seeks to learn “both sides of the story.”

Don’t screen off from your own consciousness the bigger side of your work. Don’t be afraid you’ll harm yourself if you have to change a preconceived opinion. Have a free, broad, open mind! Be fair to the thing studied as well as to yourself. When it comes up for your examination, walk around it! The short trip will bring long knowledge.

  1. EXPERIMENT

The world honors the man who is eager to plant new seeds of study today so he may harvest a fresh crop of knowledge tomorrow. The world is sick of the man who is always harking back to the past and thinks everything wroth knowing has already been learned. … Respect the past, take what it offers, but don’t live in it.

To learn, experiment! Try something new. See what happens. Lindbergh experimented when he flew the Atlantic. Pasteur experimented with bacteria and made cow’s milk safe for the human race. Franklin experimented with a kite and introduced electricity.

The greatest experiment is nearly always a solo. The individual, seeking to learn, tries something new but only tries it on himself. If he fails, he has hurt only himself. If he succeeds he has made a discovery many people can use. Experiment only with your own time, your own money, your own labor. That’s the honest, sincere type of experiment. It’s rich. The cheap experiment is to use other people’s money, other people’s destinies, other people’s bodies as if they were guinea pigs.

  1. TEACH

If you would have knowledge, knowledge sure and sound, teach. Teach your children, teach your associates, teach your friends. In the very act of teaching, you will learn far more than your best pupil.

Knowledge is relative; you possess it in degrees. You know more about reading, writing, and arithmetic than your young child. But teach that child at every opportunity; try to pass on to him all you know, and the very attempt will produce a great deal more knowledge inside your own brain.

  1. READ

From time immemorial it has been commonly understood that the best way to acquire knowledge was to read. That is not true. Reading is only one way to knowledge, and in the writer’s opinion, not the best way. But you can surely learn from reading if you read in the proper manner.

What you read is important, but not all important. How you read is the main consideration. For if you knowhow to read, there’s a world of education even in the newspapers, the magazines, on a single billboard or a stray advertising dodger.

The secret of good reading is this: read critically!

Somebody wrote that stuff you’re reading. It was a definite individual, working with a pen, pencil or typewriter — the writing came from his mind and hisonly. If you were face to face with him and listening instead of reading, you would be a great deal more critical than the average reader is. Listening, you would weigh his personality, you would form some judgment about his truthfulness, his ability. But reading, you drop all judgment, and swallow his words whole — just as if the act of printing the thing made it true!

If you must read in order to acquire knowledge, read critically. Believe nothing till it’s understood, till it’s clearly proven.

  1. WRITE

To know it — write it! If you’re writing to explain, you’re explaining it to yourself! If you’re writing to inspire,you’re inspiring yourself! If you’re writing to record, you’re recording it on your own memory. How often you have written something down in order to be sure you would have a record of it, only to find that you never needed the written record because you had learned it by heart!

The men of the best memories are those who make notes, who write things down. They just don’t write to remember, they write to learn. And because they DO learn by writing, they seldom need to consult their notes, they have brilliant, amazing memories. How different from the glib, slipshod individual who is too proud or too lazy to write, who trusts everything to memory, forgets so easily, and possesses so little real knowledge.

Write! Writing, to knowledge, is a certified check. Youknow what you know once you have written it down!

  1. LISTEN

You have a pair of ears — use them! When the other man talks, give him a chance. Pay attention. If you listen you may hear something useful to you. If you listen you may receive a warning that is worth following. If you listen, you may earn the respect of those whose respect you prize.

Pay attention to the person speaking. Contemplate the meaning of his words, the nature of his thoughts. Grasp and retain the truth.

Of all the ways to acquire knowledge, this way requires least effort on your part. You hardly have to do any work. You are bound to pick up information. It’s easy, it’s surefire.

  1. OBSERVE

Keep your eyes open. There are things happening, all around you, all the time. The scene of events is interesting, illuminating, full of news and meaning. It’s a great show — an impressive parade of things worth knowing. Admission is free — keep your eyes open.

There are only two kinds of experience: the experience of ourselves and the experience of others. Our own experience is slow, labored, costly, and often hard to bear. The experience of others is a ready-made set of directions on knowledge and life. Their experience is free; we need suffer none of their hardships; we may collect on all their good deeds. All we have to do isobserve!

Observe! Especially the good man, the valorous deed. Observe the winner that you yourself may strive to follow that winning example and learn the scores of different means and devices that make success possible.

Observe! Observe the loser that you may escape his mistakes, avoid the pitfalls that dragged him down.

Observe the listless, indifferent, neutral people who do nothing, know nothing, are nothing. Observe them and then differ from them.

  1. PUT IN ORDER

Order is Heaven’s first law. And the only good knowledge is orderly knowledge! You must put your information and your thoughts in order before you can effectively handle your own knowledge. Otherwise you will jump around in conversation like a grasshopper, your arguments will be confused and distributed, your brain will be in a dizzy whirl all the time.

  1. DEFINE

A definition is a statement about a thing which includes everything the thing is and excludes everything it is not.

A definition of a chair must include every chair, whether it be kitchen chair, a high chair, a dentist’s chair, or the electric chair, It must exclude everything which isn’t a chair, even those things which come close, such as a stool, a bench, a sofa.

I am sorry to state that until you can so define chair or door (or a thousand other everyday familiar objects)you don’t really know what these things are. You have the ability to recognize them and describe them but you can’t tell what their nature is. Your knowledge is notexact.

  1. REASON

Animals have knowledge. But only men can reason.The better you can reason the farther you separate yourself from animals.

The process by which you reason is known as logic. Logic teaches you how to derive a previously unknown truth from the facts already at hand. Logic teaches you how to be sure whether what you think is true is really true.

Logic is the supreme avenue to intellectual truth. Don’t ever despair of possessing a logical mind. You don’t have to study it for years, read books and digest a mountain of data. All you have to remember is one word — compare.

Compare all points in a proposition. Note the similarity— that tells you something new. Note the difference — that tells you something new. Then take the new things you’ve found and check them against established laws or principles.

This is logic. This is reason. This is knowledge in its highest form.

The rest of You Can Do Anything! goes on to explore such facets of success as the fundamentals of personal achievement, manual and mental production, the art of the deadline, selling by giving, mastering personal energy, the necessary elements of ambition, and more.





Inclusion: Cultivating a Growth Mindset

25 03 2014

BY  · 03/23/2014

 A MiddleWeb Blog

2-teachers-nobordr-210Are you the type to embrace hard work and challenges? Do you persist toward mastering goals even when there are setbacks and barriers in your way?

Do you see constructive criticism as a possibility for learning and growth or as a reminder of an area where you are not strong?  Do you think your areas of weakness may become areas of strength with hard work, persistence, and dedication to practice?

If so, you probably have a “growth mindset.” What about your students? Are you guiding them toward a growth or a fixed mindset?This blog post is sparked by my daily passion to guide my students toward reaching their personal best by becoming life-long, strategic learners — as well as my connection to a recent professional development experience provided by my district.

This past Friday was Superintendent’s Conference Day in my district. Colleagues and I had the opportunity to be inspired by Kate Gerson, a Senior Regents Research Fellow for the Common Core with the New York Regents Research Fund. We knew she was going to speak about the Common Core State Standards.  But we were given the chance to leave the session with so much more.

Oh, the possibilities!

mindset-1Kate’s presentation style was friendly, relaxing, and inspiring.  She made it clear that she purposely left behind structured PowerPoint visuals and guiding notes that would normally drive her presentation. Instead she spoke off the cuff to the crowd of English, social studies, reading, and special education teachers about the power of the growth mindset. She first touched on the work by Carol Dweck and then got right into what it could mean for the teachers in the room—and ultimately the students in our district.

Kate connected with all who were willing to affirm their beliefs about learning and all who were willing to extend and perhaps even open their minds to a new way of thinking. Throughout the presentation, I connected, I affirmed, and I became inspired to think about more ways to collaborate with colleagues to make this a natural, consistent experience for students in our district.

And then, of course, I began to get giddy thinking about the value of the growth mindset in inclusion classrooms. Oh, the places students can go—if only the co-teachers in the room would create learning experiences through the lens of a growth mindset!

Before I get into my takeaways from this professional development experience, here’s some background from another presentation where Kate speaks at the Network Team Institute held in August 2012. She addresses the process of implementing the Common Core State Standards with a focus on applying a growth mindset.Check out part one here. And here’s part two.

My Two Main Takeaways

1.     Teachers must raise awareness about the value of a growth mindset with parents. 

Here are just a few ways teachers can spread the word to parents:

►  Send information home for parents to read.

►  Include links to learn about the mindsets through email, class websites, etc.

►  Present at PTA meetings.

►  Include in your Meet the Teacher Night at the beginning of the year—and be sure to follow up with evidence of the benefits throughout the year.

►  Involve parents in sharing what goes on at home in order to foster a growth mindset.

►  Keep communication open—and share evidence of the powerful learning that happens when a growth mindset is solidly in place.

Window sunshine sky. Child on windowsill reading book.

2.     Teachers Must Focus on Teaching Practice—Not Test Prep

 Here’s what teachers can do:

►  Guide students to deepen their background knowledge.  Build their willingness to interact with text.

►  Teach academic vocabulary.

►  Incorporate Domain Specific Acceleration, which adopts the research-supported idea that the more you read something, the more you can read about that something because you have developed the vocabulary base and background knowledge.

►  Remember that as you incorporate academic vocabulary, it shows up in other domains, which will lead to successful reading experiences.

►  Adopt a mastery paradigm—guide students to see that when you’re working toward mastery, you are growing.  It’s not about the grade—it’s about the learning process.  Learning from mistakes can be a richer learning experience than having an A slapped on the top of an assignment.

►  Teach students to move through the frustration of genuine learning. Get them to see that becoming successful in a skill often involves confusion, frustration, hard work, and lots of practice!  For example, for students who struggle with reading, teach them strategies—provide lots of practice at their independent level—do not enable by allowing them to avoid the task, or reading to them all the time. Help them to push through their frustration  They will thank you later (maybe much later), and it will be worth the struggle and effort!

►  Draw that strategic line between advocating/supporting students and enabling dependency. For example, teachers should ask themselves, how much background knowledge do I really need to provide for my students for this lesson? The question becomes how will you inspire students to get the information on their own—with the appropriate levels of scaffolding.

►  Examine the types of scaffolds you have in place. Are they guiding independent thinkers? Or producing students who are dependent on the well-intentioned scaffold as crutch?  For example, how do you handle class notes: do students just sit and wait for them to be given? Or do they jot down key words, using a guided note-taking strategy?

A Few Strategies to Support a Growth Mindset State of Mind

► Prepare to be amazed by this resource by New York State Education Department’s Engage NY website. It is chock full of instructional strategies! These protocols from Expeditionary Learning are sure to guide deep learning in your classrooms.

►  A strategy I return to time and time again is called Possible sentences.  Check it out—see what you think. If you don’t have time to check out the link right now—take a sneak peek here to get the gist.

►  Another one of my all-time favorites that works with any grade level and any genre or text is reciprocal teaching. Students work through a text by learning to Predict, Question, Clarify, and Summarize, while collaborating with peers. Here’s a quick link to a graphic organizer for those short on time at the moment.

For co-teachers, the growth mindset is a necessary paradigm to instill. It should be second nature as we guide students to close personal achievement gaps in order to keep up with the pace and rigor of the general education setting. Co-teachers must develop a sense of urgency around guiding students to push through frustration. Teachers should support/advocate in ways that help students to know that it’s OK to step out of their comfort zones in order to learn from mistakes and to grow.

But first, perhaps, teachers need to do that for themselves. So, please do! And then come back here and share your questions, your celebrations, and your journey…

As for this post, I’m thankful to be part of a district that strives to provide meaningful professional development to keep us moving forward.  And a special thanks to Kate Gerson for giving me the opportunity to connect my passion and beliefs with your willingness to share and inspire—for this blog post and beyond!

Now for the best part…let’s chat! We have so much to learn together….

In what ways do you connect with a growth mindset?

What value do you place on instilling a growth mindset in your classroom?

What state or other web-based resources serve to support your instructional practice?

Elizabeth Stein

Elizabeth Stein is a 20-year teaching veteran, specializing in literacy and special education, with experience in both upper elementary and middle school. She’s currently a middle grades teacher and new-teacher mentor in Long Island NY’s Smithtown Central School District. Elizabeth is National Board Certified in Literacy and a contributor to Education Week and other publications. Her first book Comprehension Lessons for RTI (Grades 3-5), is published by Scholastic (June 2013). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethlstein.





How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science

25 03 2014
Young boy writes math equations on chalkboard
Justin Lewis—Getty Images

1) Music Lessons

Plain and simple: research show music lessons make kids smarter:

Compared with children in the control groups,children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in full-scale IQ. The effect was relatively small, but it generalized across IQ subtests, index scores, and a standardized measure of academic achievement.

In fact musical training helps everyoneyoung and old:

A growing body of research finds musical training gives students learning advantages in the classroom. Now a Northwestern University study finds musical training can benefit Grandma, too, by offsetting some of the deleterious effects of aging.

(More on what the music you love says about you here.)

2) The Dumb Jock Is A Myth

Dumb jocks are dumb because they spend more time on the field than in the library. But what if you make sure your child devotes time to both?

Being in good shape increases your ability to learn. After exercise people pick up new vocabulary words 20% faster.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF.

A 3 month exercise regimen increased bloodflow to the part of the brain focused on memory and learning by 30%.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

In his study, Small put a group of volunteers on a three-month exercise regimen and then took pictures of their brains… What he saw was that the capillary volume in the memory area of the hippocampus increased by 30 percent, a truly remarkable change.

(More on how exercise can make you and your kids smarter and happier here.)

3) Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them

Got a little one who is learning to read? Don’t let them just stare at the pictures in a book while you do all the reading.
Call attention to the words. Read with them, not to them.Research shows it helps build their reading skills:

…when shared book reading is enriched with explicit attention to the development of children’s reading skills and strategies, then shared book reading is an effective vehicle for promoting the early literacy ability even of disadvantaged children.

(More on things most parents do wrong here.)

4) Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid

Missing an hour of sleep turns a sixth grader’s brain into that of a fourth grader.

Via NurtureShock:

“A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explained.

There is a correlation between grades and average amount of sleep.

Via NurtureShock:

Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged fifteen more minutes than the C’s, and so on. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of over 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. Every fifteen minutes counts.

(More on how to sleep better here.)

5) IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self-Discipline

Self-discipline beats IQ at predicting who will be successful in life.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success… Students who exerted high levels of willpower were more likely to earn higher grades in their classes and gain admission into more selective schools. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework. “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”

Grades have more to do with conscientiousness than raw smarts.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

…conscientiousness was the trait that best predicted workplace success. What intrigues Roberts about conscientiousness is that it predicts so many outcomes that go far beyond the workplace. People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer – and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Who does best in life? Kids with grit.

Via Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as “grit”—defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

(More on how to improve self-discipline here.)

6) Learning Is An Active Process

Baby Einstein and braintraining games don’t work.
In fact, there’s reason to believe they make kids dumber.

Via Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five:

The products didn’t work at all. They had no positive effect on the vocabularies of the target audience, infants 17-24 months. Some did actual harm. For every hour per day the children spent watching certain baby DVD’s and videos, the infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them.

Real learning isn’t passive, it’s active.

What does Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code recommend? Stop merely reading and test yourself:

Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it. There’s a rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.

(More on how to teach your child to be a hard worker in school here.)

7) Treats Can Be A Good Thing — At The Right Time

Overall, it would be better if kids ate healthy all the time. Research shows eating makes a difference in children’s grades:

Everybody knows you should eat breakfast the day of a big test. High-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best, research shows. But what you eat a week in advance matters, too. When 16 college students were tested on attention and thinking speed, then fed a five-day high-fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cheese and cream and tested again, their performance declined.

There are always exceptions. No kid eats healthy all the time. But the irony is that kids often get “bad” foods at the wrong time.
Research shows caffeine and sugar can be brain boosters:

Caffeine and glucose can have beneficial effects on cognitive performance… Since these areas have been related to the sustained attention and working memory processes, results would suggest that combined caffeine and glucose could increase the efficiency of the attentional system.

They’re also potent rewards kids love.

So if kids are going to occasionally eat candy and soda maybe it’s better to give it to them while they study then when they’re relaxing.

(More on the best way for kids to study here.)

8) Happy Kids = Successful Kids

Happier kids are more likely to turn into successful, accomplished adults.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

…happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage.

And what’s the first step in creating happier kids? Being a happy parent.

(More on how to raise happy kids here.)

9) Peer Group Matters

Your genetics and the genetics of your partner have a huge effect on your kids. But the way you raise your kids?
Not nearly as much.

Via Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:

On things like measures of intellectual ability and certain aspects of personality, the biological children are fairly similar to their parents. For the adopted kids, however, the results are downright strange. Their scores have nothing whatsoever in common with their adoptive parents: these children are no more similar in their personality or intellectual skills to the people who raised them, fed them, clothed them, read to them, taught them, and loved them for sixteen years than they are to any two adults taken at random off the street.

So what does have an enormous affect on your children’s behavior? Their peer group.

We usually only talk about peer pressure when it’s a negative but more often than not, it’s a positive.

Living in a nice neighborhood, going to solid schools and making sure your children hang out with good kids can make a huge difference.

What’s the easiest way for a college student to improve their GPA? Pick a smart roommate.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

One study of Dartmouth College students by economist Bruce Sacerdote illustrates how powerful this influence is. He found that when students with low grade-point averages simply began rooming with higher-scoring students, their grade-point averages increased. These students, according to the researchers, “appeared to infect each other with good and bad study habits—such that a roommate with a high grade-point average would drag upward the G.P.A. of his lower-scoring roommate.”

(More on the how others affect your behavior without you realizing ithere.)

10) Believe In Them

Believing your kid is smarter than average makes a difference.

When teachers were told certain kids were sharper, those kids did better — even though the kids were selected at random.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

…Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) did the same study in a classroom, telling elementary school teachers that they had certain students in their class who were “academic spurters.” In fact, these students were selected at random. Absolutely nothing else was done by the researchers to single out these children. Yet by the end of the school year, 30 percent of the the children arbitrarily named as spurters had gained an average of 22 IQ points, and almost all had gained at least 10 IQ points.

Sum Up

  1. Music Lessons
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth
  3. Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid
  5. IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self-Discipline
  6. Learning Is An Active Process
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing — At The Right Time
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids
  9. Peer Group Matters
  10. Believe In Them

One final note: Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.

As P.J. O’Rourke once said:

Smart people don’t start many bar fights. But stupid people don’t build many hydrogen bombs.

So if you want to learn how to raise a happier kid go here and a more well-behaved kid go here.

I hope this helps your child be brilliant.

 





Ten reasons why your gifted child procrastinates

13 03 2014

Procrastination: that vexing time thief so many gifted children face. You watch as your bright, curious child, passionately engaged in so many interests, comes to a screeching halt when a project is due. You coax, cajole, demand, bribe, threaten, and stand on your head, yet nothing will budge. What gives?

While most people procrastinate from time to time, some develop a chronic pattern fraught with avoidance, disorganization and frantic efforts as deadlines loom. Before you nag your child one more time, rush out and buy yet another self-help book, or hit your head against the wall, you may first want to sort out the reasons for the procrastination. Usually there are one or more contributing factors, and if you sort these out, you may be better prepared to tackle the problem.
Here are some possible reasons for procrastination:

1.  Distractibility – Some gifted children are so immersed in their interests that they have difficulty focusing on the task at hand. They become easily distracted by more engaging ideas or projects. Overscheduling can exacerbate this problem; however, distractions can arise even without competing demands once the child’s passions and interests take hold.

2.  Disorganization – Gifted children can struggle with poor organizational and planning abilities and can lack time management skills. Despite motivation to complete a project, they may become overwhelmed when it involves more attention to details or long-range planning than usual. Difficulty managing their time and structuring how they will work is frequently the root of this problem.

3.  Apathy – Sometimes gifted children have become so bored and disgusted with school that they lose interest and don’t really care about the quality of their work. They delay completing assignments because the work seems meaningless. They would rather engage in a multitude of other activities than “waste” their time on rote paperwork or assignments that seem too easy.

4.  Past success – Some gifted children procrastinate because they can get away with it. Many have learned that completing assignments at the last minute does not diminish the quality of their work or harm the outcome. They know they can do better, but with a track record of excellent grades behind them, they realize they don’t have to work very hard to just slide by.

5.  Rebellion – Procrastination can be an expression of resistance or quiet rebellion against completing an assignment a child resents. It is a means of devaluing the project, minimizing its importance, and expressing anger about having to work on something unappealing. Even if the project is eventually completed, delaying it until the last minute is a form of silent protest that may feel empowering to the child.

6.  Perfectionism – High expectations of achieving success can create anxiety and a desire to delay that which is distressing. When gifted children worry that they might not excel on a given task, they may put it off until the last possible minute. Clearly, this can be a recipe for increased anxiety and inevitable 11:00 PM melt-downs.

7.  Self-sabotage – Some gifted children (and gifted adolescents in particular) try to hide their abilities from others. In an attempt toblend in, they may disguise their talents, perform poorly, and disengage from academics. Procrastination may reflect their ambivalence about confronting this dilemma and uncertainty about whether to minimize their abilities or live up to their potential. And if the quality of their work suffers, then they can perpetuate the image they want to convey.

8.  Insecurity – Despite their apparent skills, some gifted children doubt their abilities. They may feel like “imposters” and worry that their inadequacies will be “discovered” at any time. They believe that they have an image to uphold and if they fail in some manner, they will be outed as a fraud. Delaying completion of a project is a means of avoiding the inevitable anxiety that arises when they confront this fear.

9.  Shame – Along with insecurity, some gifted children experience feelings of shame if they fail to excel. They react as if this is an indictment against their intelligence and suspect that others will view them as inadequate. As a result, procrastination can be an excuse; if a less than perfect grade is attributed to a rushed, last-minute effort, then the child can believe that actual ability was never to blame.

10. Depression – Occasionally, procrastination may be a symptom of depression. However, it usually coincides with other signs, such as withdrawal and isolation from peers, apparent sadness, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and irritability. In these situations, procrastination may be a reflection of feelings of hopelessness and a perception that school work lacks any meaning.

Sorting out the cause of your child’s procrastination is the first step toward working on the problem. A one-size-fits-all approach based on the latest self-help ideas may not work for your child’s specific situation. Clearly, a child whose procrastination is the result of perfectionism and shame will need a different approach than one whose primary concern is apathy.

Gather information, speak with your child, listen to what your child thinks. Make a decision about whether the problem is behavioral (habits, distractibility, time management), school based (boredom, apathy), and/or the result of anxiety or depression. Determine whether intervention needs to occur at home, school, or both, and whether a counselor, school psychologist, ortherapist would help to address the problem. (More on treating procrastination in a future blog post.)

Let us know what you think about procrastination in the comments section below.

Posted by   giftedchallenges.blogspot




FIVE UNEXPECTED TRAITS OF GIFTED STUDENTS

9 03 2014
Fivehand

Photo by woodleywonderworks

We know gifted students are far more complex than their test scores might suggest. And while we expect certain quirks, others blindside us: a strange reaction to sound, a sudden outburst of tears, or a need to stand up at inopportune times.

Five Overexcitabilities

Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five types of “overexcitability” that he believed connected strongly to giftedness: intellectual, psychomotor, imaginative, sensual, and emotional.

However, these same five overexcitabilities also make it difficult for students to work within the confines of the classroom. Carrie Lynn Bailey writes:

A challenge for gifted individuals is that they can often be viewed negatively, or pathologically, particularly in educational settings.Overexcitabilities and Sensitivities

Mendaglio and Tiller found, in 2006, the tie between overexcitabilities and giftedness to be somewhat looser than originaly thought, but an awareness of overexcitabilities goes a long way towards understanding that kid who seems to defy explanation.

1. Intellectual Overexcitability

Curious, questioning, and sharp, a child with intellectual overexcitability asks the questions that flummox you, makes the connections that amaze you, and arrives at understandings that leave your curriculum in the dust.

They will want to go deep into interesting topics, talk about theoretical concepts, and move faster through content than you can handle.

2. Imaginational Overexcitability

Fueled by creativity, a love of stories and drawings, and fictional worlds, students with this overexcitability might daydream, doodle, or otherwise occupy their minds while a dull teacher drones on.

3. Sensual Overexcitability

Despite the provocative name, we’re talking literally about the five senses here. Students with sensual overexcitability receive more input from their senses than expected. This could show up as a strong reaction to sounds, light, and textures, or tastes. This reaction could be positive, with a desire to continue experiencing a sensation, or negative, driving the student away from the stimulus.

As a child, I loved rubbing a satin blanket on my face. As an adult, I go to sleep easier when I have the pressure of a thick blanket. These odd quirks might be a result of sensual overexcitability.

4. Psychomotor Overexcitability

Students with psychomotor overexcitability appear to simply have too much energy. It might manifest as fidgety behavior, rapid, excessive talking, and overactive physical behavior. It sounds an awful lot like ADHD, and might easily be misidentified as such.

5. Emotional Overexcitability

Tragedies, injustice, and reminders of mortality might trigger an unexpectedly emotional response from students who experience emotional overexcitability. As a teacher, it might appear that they are over-dramatic or seeking attention. However, these students simply feel emotions more intensely, whether joy or sadness. This sensitivity could show up as strong compassion, empathy, and caring for others.

Classroom Implications

How does this theory help a teacher up to his neck in the day’s work? Identifying these overexcitabilities puts us on the road to alleviating classroom problems:

Too many detailed questions from a student in the middle of a lesson?She’s exhibiting intellectual overexcitability. Give her ten minutes of computer time to get those quesitons answered!

A student is deeply involved in a movie or book’s fictional world He’s showing signs of imaginational overexcitability. This kid needs an ongoing, creative outlet for these feelings. Give him an open-ended, creative project as a “what do I when I’m done?” option.

Fidgety actions causing annoying noises during worktime? The student might be experiencing psychomotor overexcitabilities. Be sure to offer options for moving around, constructing objects, or otherwise getting that energy out.

Sobbing rage over a minor recess trangression Offer a listening, non-judgemental ear and a chance for the student to explain the event. Give some “cool-down” time. Later, discuss ways to deal with strong emotions before they become overwhelming.

Overreaction to a sound in the class, agitated behavior over clothingTry to get to the root of the problem, identifying what exactly bothers the student so you can help structure the day to avoid those sounds, sights, or textures. You may also attempt to counsel the student withways to deal with troublesome sensations.

Finally, realize how easily these five traits could overshadow a child’s gifts.

Further Reading

In case you want to dig deeper into Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities:

In case you want to dig deeper into Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities:





7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders

8 03 2014

 While I spend my professional time now as a career success coach, writer, and leadership trainer, I was a marriage and family therapist in my past, and worked for several years with couples, families, and children. Through that experience, I witnessed a very wide array of both functional and dysfunctional parenting behaviors. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect you from parenting in ways that hold your children back from thriving, gaining independence and

becoming the leaders they have the potential to be. canstockphoto3580131

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future,Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Tim had this to share about the 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises:

1. We don’t let our children experience risk

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The “safety first” preoccupation enforces our fear of losing our kids, so we do everything we can to protect them. It’s our job after all, but we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking behavior and it’s had an adverse effect. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults. Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.

2. We rescue too quickly

Today’s generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did 30 years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with “assistance,” we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” When in reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.

3. We rave too easily

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well

Your child does not have to love you every minute. Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need. As parents, we tend to give them what they want when rewarding our children, especially with multiple kids. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to enforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions and good deeds. Be careful not to teach them a good grade is rewarded by a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.

5. We don’t share our past mistakes

Healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. We as adults must let them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them navigate these waters. Share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. (Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) Also, kids must prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity

Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal. Just because giftedness is present in one aspect of a child’s life, don’t assume it pervades all areas. There is no magic “age of responsibility” or a proven guide as to when a child should be given specific freedoms, but a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours. If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.

7. We don’t practice what we preach

As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live. To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions. As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character. Watch yourself in the little ethical choices that others might notice, because your kids will notice too. If you don’t cut corners, for example, they will know it’s not acceptable for them to either. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Leave people and places better than you found them, and your kids will take note and do the same.

Why do parents engage in these behaviors (what are they afraid of if they don’t)? Do these behaviors come from fear or from poor understanding of what strong parenting (with good boundaries) is?

Tim shares:

“I think both fear and lack of understanding play a role here, but it leads with the fact that each generation of parents is usually compensating for something the previous generation did. The primary adults in kids’ lives today have focused on now rather than later. It’s about their happiness today not their readiness tomorrow. I suspect it’s a reaction. Many parents today had Moms and Dads who were all about getting ready for tomorrow: saving money, not spending it, and getting ready for retirement. In response, many of us bought into the message: embrace the moment. You deserve it. Enjoy today. And we did. For many, it resulted in credit card debt and the inability to delay gratification. This may be the crux of our challenge. The truth is, parents who are able to focus on tomorrow, not just today, produce better results.”

How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Here’s a start:

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

How are you parenting your children? Are you sacrificing their long-term growth for short-term comfort?

(For more about developing our children’s leadership capabilities, visit Tim Elmore and Growing Leaders atwww.growingleaders.com and follow @GrowingLeaders and@TimElmore on Twitter.)

 





The Burdens of Gifted Children

8 03 2014

      MARCH 6, 2014

burdensofgiftedchildren

Gifted children have an unusual cross to bear; most of society sees giftedness as …… well, as a gift, but gifted children most often see it is a curse. As most who do not understand giftedness, people assume gifted children are smarter and have it made in life. For those of us who understand, teach and parent gifted children, we know otherwise. Here are 7 burdens most gifted children bear in their lives.

The Green-Eyed Monster: Some say that money is the root of all evil, but if you want my opinion, the root of all evil is JEALOUSY! Gifted children are not spared from the envious actions and words of mean-spirited, resentful people. Both same-age peers and adults deliver envy-laden insults and actions just to make sure the gifted child is knocked down a few notches. Jealousy is also a major road block to advocacy efforts for gifted children – why would a child who has it made need more? I read recently this one particularly greenish blog post written by a mom proclaiming in her title how she hates it when parents brag about their gifted child. Another blog post seen by many on the net claimed people are not born gifted, they work and create good habits in order to become gifted. Ummm … jealous much?

Bullying: Bullying could stem from jealousy, but insight into why kids bully also shows that children who become victims of bullying usually are those who stand out from the norm in some way. Sooo, you-know-who stands out among their same-age peers – Sarah Smarty-pants and Nathan the Nerd. Delivering an in-depth monologue at recess about the loss of Ancient Greek knowledge and technology when the Romans conquered the Greeks, and the resulting affect it had on the historical timing of the Industrial Revolution does call attention to oneself. Correcting a teacher in front of the class when she mispronounced a word could also lead to some retaliation. Yes, gifted children are often the victim of bullying when their intelligence shines a little too brightly.

The Race to the Middle: In the last few decades, our educational system has focused on making sure no child gets left behind, and teachers having to teach to the middle. This works well for the students who struggle and those who are performing in the average range. Excellent, right? No? Oh wait! Where does this leave our gifted learners whose voracious appetite for knowledge puts them ahead of the pack? Let me tell you – it leaves them bored, disenchanted and disengaged. While everyone in education is racing to the middle, gifted children’s love of learning is racing out the classroom door. The parents of gifted children do not escape this educational burden either, as they find themselves fighting the schools to get the education their gifted child needs and deserves.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Unless of course you are gifted and you are a rare bird. Gifted people make up approximately the top 1% of the population. So, if a gifted child in 6th grade attends a school with say, 200 other sixth graders, statistically there is only going to be ONE other gifted 6th grader to flock with. We know as humans, we tend to make friends with those who share our interests. The same goes for school-age kids. For gifted children, the likelihood of finding like-minded peers to make friends with are slim. Having trouble finding friends who share your interests is a significant hardship for gifted children!

Bionic Senses: Gifted children are most often born with emotional and physical intensities, sensitivities and overexcitabilities. These are known as Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities; named for the Polish psychiatrist who first noted them. An itchy tag on the back of a shirt, an odd odor no one else seems to smell or the unavoidable death of a dragonfly hitting a car’s windshield – all of these could send a gifted child into a uncontrollable spiral of emotional turmoil. These super-sensitivities easily become an unwanted burden for a gifted child, and it leads to exhausting levels of damage control for parents.

Not In Sync: Asynchronous development. While other children develop emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually in a synchronous manner, gifted children usually do not. Their intellectual and social intelligence may be light years ahead of their same-age peers, but emotionally, they could lag behind significantly. How difficult it must be for a child who has the intellectual reasoning of an adult, but not have the equivalent emotional maturity needed to handle the adult concepts he understands! As a parent of a gifted child, asynchronous development makes parenting difficult when trying to reason with the man-child who is also falling out on the floor crying like a toddler.

It’s a Mis – Misunderstood, Misdiagnosed, Mislabeled, Mistreated and Mistaught: The “mis” plight of our gifted children causes their lives to be unnecessarily painful. The many unique and misunderstood characteristics of our gifted children often lead to psychological misdiagnoses. The gifted child who is bored in class begins to misbehave and his teacher recommends that he be tested for ADHD. A gifted child’s underachievement in school can be misinterpreted as laziness. Teachers who misunderstand giftedness do not see the need for acceleration or differentiation when teaching gifted children. In the classroom, on the playground, at the park and in their own neighborhoods, gifted children are misunderstood and are being mistreated.

Saddled with these burdens, our gifted children struggle with self-esteem issues, feel like they don’t fit in in our world, they learn to hide or dumb down their intelligence, they may underachieve, and many end up with anxiety and depression.

Isn’t it time we alleviate these burdens? Through advocacy, all of us who love, parent, educate and work with gifted children can make positive changes in the lives of gifted children.

Advocate for gifted children and lessen the burden.





Social Board Games, Part 0: Introduction

5 03 2014

Here is a great article I found for social games

By 

As some of you already know, I am a mathematics professor at a small school in Indiana (Trine University). Despite our size, we have a very large engineering program – but more importantly, we have a class on the books called “Social Board Games”! The person who usually teaches it no longer has time, so he suggsted I take it up. No need to ask twice!

The course description says that “The object of this activity class is to expose students to the history, rules, strategies and fundamentals of a variety of social board games including Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Cranium, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Taboo and Monopoly.” Or, in the words of another professor, the point of the course is “to get the guys in engineering to actually talk to girls before they graduate.”

Of course, since I’m the kind of guy who runs a board gaming blog, I threw all of this out the window. While games like Pictionary and Taboo have some good social interaction and are closer to my aims for the course, games like Chess and Checkers are played in pairs and in virtual silence, and Monopoly and Scrabble can be frustrating and longish. More importantly though, I wanted to have a central goal for the course. I want students to actually learn a thing or two. The course is just 1-credit pass/fail, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a waste of time.

When I think back to my experiences in college, such as our “freshmen college experience” course that everyone college has now, I think of things I would have like to have known then, and what I want students to know now as a professor. The most important thing that came to mind was that I want students to take control of their own learning. (It amazes me the extent to which students who are confused in class will refuse to ask a question, for fear of looking stupid.) This led to me thinking about a variety of mental health issues that people don’t even realize are “issues” until it gets them fired from a job. My wife is a licensed mental health counselor, so with her help I came up with a list of ideas I wanted students to engage with and the games with which to do it. (In the future, I hope to try and get this course to count as a Social Science credit.)

What has been most amazing so far is the generosity of publishers and retailers alike. Since I was rebuilding a course from the ground up for which we already had materials (the old games), it was a safe assumption that I would have no funding from the university for new games. However, almost all of the publishers that I contacted were willing to step in and send some games to use in the course, and only a few were completely unresponsive. CoolStuffInc stepped in when I really wanted to use a game from a publisher I could not seem to contact, and I can’t be thankful enough. MeepleTown is not sponsored at all, by any publisher or retailer, but on a personal level I really want to thank (in no particular order) Rio Grande Games, Days of Wonder, Steve Jackson Games, R&R Games, FoxMind Games, North Star Games, Gamewright Games, Gryphon/Eagle Games, and Indie Boards & Cards, along with CoolStuffInc. This class as I envision it would not be possible without the generosity of every single one of you.

I am not going to share the entire syllabus, but I am going to share the flow of the course and the kind of assignments the students will have. This is a Wednesday night class, and each week students will be playing a game after I lecture a bit beforehand about the concept in mind as well as the ruleset. After about 90 minutes of play, we’ll recap the concept I want them to get and talk about how it appeared within the game. Then they have to go home and write a one-page paper on the importance of the mental health concept and how it appeared in the game. I’ll grade these out of 10 points (5 for grammar, 5 for substance) and they simply need to average a 6/10 on their assignments to pass the course. I hope to collect some important thoughts from these as I blog each week about the course, and maybe talk at some conferences about the importance of play, both psychologically and mathematically. (All that mathematical researchers do all day is goof around until something works. Play is of utmost importance.)

To pick games for this course, I needed them to satisfy some pretty important criteria. They needed to have a relatively short playtime – some games like Ticket to Ride will take a bit longer, but I was really aiming for 20-30 minute games that could be played several times in a row. It was also very important that they had a simple ruleset – the toughest game is probably Dominion, but I’ll be setting out the simplest Kingdom Cards in the basic set when they play, and that’ll be towards the end of the semester. I’ll also be walking around the room to answer rules questions as they play. Most importantly, they had to model some sort of important mental health concept that would be useful later in life as well as right now in college. To that end, the first unit is the most important one for college: realizing that it’s okay to be a little ignorant, and that everyone is a little ignorant too. The point of college is to become educated, which you can’t do if you won’t admit that youaren’t completely educated. The second unit is about communication, whose importance is hopefully obvious, although we will focus on several different types of communication. The third unit is on applying strategic thinking to life in general (which is, of course, a game, although we’re all a little fuzzy on the rules and victory conditions). The last unit is on separating play from reality – students (and even children) need to learn not to huff and puff and scream and stomp out of the room when they lose when they are still young, lest they act the same way at a board meeting.

I’ll talk more about the individual games chosen in detail as they come up each week, and I’ll also talk about responses from the students and what I lectured about. But for now, here is the list of games along with the mental health goals and writing prompts. (The game synopses are straight from BoardGameGeek and included for the students, who have probably never played or heard of most of these, since my Finite Math students at IUPUI did not even know the content of a deck of standard playing cards.) Check back next Friday for Part 1!

UNIT 1: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

The goal of this unit is for students to get comfortable with their own limitations. No one – even a genius – knows that much about the world compared to everything there is to know, and not everyone has the same skill set. It’s okay to be wrong or not know something! It’s more than okay to ask a question during classes! These games are meant to illustrate that.

TelestrationsWeek 1 (1/8) Telestrations

Game Synopsis: Telestrations is the award winning, laugh-out-loud party game that has players simultaneously draw what they see, then guess what they saw to reveal hilarious and unpredictable outcomes. In this fun, modern twist on the classic “telephone game,” there are multiple words being passed around between players, with everyone sketching and guessing at the same time! But the real fun and laughter is the big reveal, where players get their own books back and get to share how “this” became “that”!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to laugh at yourself.

Focus for Review: Were your drawings guessed correctly? When the meaning was entirely lost, was everyone (including you) able to laugh at the errors? How can you apply those aspects of the game to failures in everyday life?

wwfamilyWeek 2 (1/15) Wits & Wagers Family

Game SynopsisWits & Wagers is the trivia game you can win without knowing any trivia! All you do is bet on the answer you think is the closest. Get lucky and your team will be cheering like they hit the jackpot!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly assess how knowledgeable other people are.

Focus for Review: When answers revealed, was your answer ever far from the rest? How did players react to “out there” answers? Did anyone lose self-confidence for that reason? Was an “out there” answer ever right? Were ever you afraid to bet on your own answer, but then it turned out to be right? How would you apply those aspects of this game to real-life situations?

faunaWeek 3 (1/22) Fauna

Game Synopsis: Do you know where the panda lives (… you most likely know)? Do you know where the babirusa lives (… you are less sure about that)? Some of us are not entirely sure what a babirusa is? In Fauna, you are not expected to know all the answers, simply gather your wits and make an educated guess. You are right on target? Great! You are close? That’s good too, since you score partial points. Playing Fauna involves some fun betting for points, but don’t get cocky, as this may cost you your hide!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to strategize and assess a situation with imperfect knowledge.

Focus for Review:  A big difference between this game and Wits & Wagers is the way you play the game on the board. Did you ever make a tactical move that wasn’t really related to what you know? Were you able to still strategize and accomplish things without knowing exactly what the right answer was? How did you use what you thought other players knew? How could this idea be applied in a real-life situation?

timesupWeek 4 (1/29) Time’s Up!

Game Synopsis: Time’s Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). The same set of famous names is used for each of three rounds. In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. In round 1, almost any kind of clue is allowed. In round 2 no more than one word can be used in each clue (but unlimited sounds and gestures are permitted). In round 3, no words are allowed at all. Time’s Up! is based on the public domain game known as Celebrities.

Mental Health Goal: Being comfortable with acting like a fool (in an appropriate situation).

Focus for Review:  Did you have trouble “loosening up” and acting silly in this game? Why or why not? Do you think that the ability to act silly is an actual, important real-life skill? Why or why not?

 Were you able to get your teammates guess the correct words? When you were not able to use words, how were you able to still indicate the card? Were you able to reference what happened in the previous rounds? How could you use this to communicate in real life?

UNIT 2: Communicating Effectively

The goal of this unit is to get students to communicate effectively with each other. This means working together as a team, as well as learning to interpret and use both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Week 5 (2/5) Dixit

dixitGame Synopsis: Every picture tells a story – but what story will your picture tell? Dixit is the lovingly illustrated game of creative guesswork, where your imagination unlocks the tale. In this award-winning board game, players will use the beautiful imagery on their cards to bluff their opponents and guess which image matches the story. Guessing right is only half the battle – to really succeed, you’ll have to get your friends to decide that your card tells the story!

Mental Health Goal: Making mental and emotional connections with strangers and acquaintances.

Focus for Review: Was it difficult to make up appropriate clues? How did you respond when your clue was too easy, too hard, or just right? Were you able to make mental or emotional connections with other players via the clues? How can you apply this idea to real life social situations with new people?

forbislandWeek 6 (2/12) Forbidden Island

Game Synopsis: Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

Mental Health Goal: Working together as a team.

Focus for Review: The game requires that you cooperate with other players to win. Did anyone try to be the “alpha player” and tell everyone what to do? How did you decide on what actions to take? What was different when you played with hidden cards? How does this correspond to working on a team or a committee at a real job, or on a group project? Did you win or lose? Why do you think you won or lost? What lessons did you take away from playing the game?

hanabi_productshotWeek 7 (2/19) Hanabi

Game Synopsis: An intriguing and innovative card game. Race against the clock to build a dazzling fireworks finale! Trouble is, you can see the cards that everyone holds…except your own.  Working together, you must give and receive vital information in order to play your cards in the proper launch sequence. Build and light each firework correctly to win the game and avoid a fizzling fiasco!

Mental Health Goal: Learning to properly intonate and infer silent communication.

Focus for Review: Were you able to correctly guess what your teammates were trying to say? Did they infer what you wanted them to when you gave clues? What changed when you did not allow intonation? What are some real-life situations where you need to pick up on silent clues?

labocaWeek 8 (2/26) La Boca

Game Synopsis:  In shifting teams of two that sit across from one another, players try to create skylines on challenge cards – but the players can see the completed image only from their point of view, so they must consult with one another constantly to make sure each colored block ends up in the right location while racing against the timer. The faster the players complete their building, the more points they score. Then the next team takes a seat, breaks down the blocks, then begins building anew. Whoever has the most points after a certain number of rounds will stand atop La Boca and glory in the cheers of the Argentinian public!

Mental Health Goal: Communicating effectively under pressure.

Focus for Review: Now that you have communicated with your classmates for a few weeks, was this easier or harder other communication games? Do you think that made a difference? Were you able to communicate under pressure? Did you work better with some teammates than others? Why or why not?

UNIT 3: Applying Strategy to Real Life:

So far, many of the games we have played have been party games, and maybe not what people typically think of when they think of board games. In this unit, we will play some strategy-based board games that will challenge your brain, but more importantly, we’ll talk about how to apply strategy to the game of life (metaphorically, not the board game Life).

Week 9 (3/12) Ticket to Ride

ttrGame Synopsis: Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to adapt your strategy after short-term setbacks.

Focus for Review: Did someone ever claim a route that you wanted? Did you claim a spot someone else wanted? What happened afterwards? Were you able to recover and do your best, anyway? How did you react to winning or losing?

Week 10 (3/19) Dominion

DominionGame Synopsis: In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can “buy” as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

Dominion is not a CCG, but the play of the game is similar to the construction and play of a CCG deck. The game comes with 500 cards. You select 10 of the 25 Kingdom card types to include in any given play—leading to immense variety.

Mental Health Goal: Learning to understand long-term consequences of your actions.

Focus for Review: How often did you see a card that you bought early? What was different about a card you bought in the first few turns, compared to the cards you bought at the end of the game? When do you think you should buy the action and money cards – early, or at the end? What about the victory cards? How does this idea of a game decision having long-term consequences translate into real life? As you approach the end of the game, the consequences of your choices don’t last as long – is there an analog to this in real life? Why or why not?

Week 11 (3/26) Skull & Roses, Coup

skullGame Synopsis: Skull & Roses is the quintessence of bluffing, a game in which everything is played in the players’ heads. Skull & Roses is not a game of luck; it’s a game of poker face and meeting eyes.

In Coup, you are head of a family in an Italian city-state, a city run by a weak and corrupt court. You need to manipulate, bluff and bribe your way to power. Your object is to destroy the influence of all the other families, forcing them into exile. Only one family will survive…

Mental Health Goal: Understanding the moral, psychological, and strategic implications of lying and bluffing.

coupsmallFocus for Review: How often did you and your opponents lie in these games? Was it absolutely necessary to tell some lies to win? Were you comfortable with doing so? Do you think it is ‘okay’ to lie to get ahead? On the other hand, is it sometimes correct or even moral to withhold truth? Is it lying to tell the truth in a way that paints it as a lie? Is it important to be able to recognize a liar when you see one? Can this be done without lying yourself and putting yourself in a liar’s shoes?

UNIT 4: Emotions During Gaming

We’ve all been there. Someone won the last game, so you don’t want to cooperate with them in this game. Someone attacked you within the game, so you want to punch them in the face. The goal of this unit is to get students comfortable with competition, so that they can properly separate play from reality, and deal with competition at their future jobs.

Week 12 (4/2) Hearts

heartsGame Synopsis: Hearts is a trick taking, standard deck playing card game, without trumps, which has been played popularly for generations and has many variations. The object is to avoid capturing hearts at one (1) point apiece and (in the most commonly played version today) the queen of spades, at thirteen (13) points, the card on which the whole game pivots. But to make it interesting, it is also possible to “shoot the moon,” taking all the hearts and the queen, a coup that gives 26 points to each of your opponents!

Mental Health Goal: Separating frustration and “mean” play within a game from the reality outside of the game.

Focus for Review: Did you ever feel targeted or attacked during the game? How did you react? What would you do in a social situation where you became angry because of the game being played? What’s a good way to avoid getting in this kind of situation in the first place?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 1 Zombie Dice

zombiediceGame Synopsis: You are a zombie. You want braaains. More brains than any of your zombie buddies. Zombie Dice is fast and easy for any zombie fan (or the whole zombie family). The 13 custom dice are your victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop rolling before the shotgun blasts end your turn! Two or more can play. Each game takes 10 to 20 minutes, and can be taught in a single round.

Mental Health Goal: Learning firsthand the risks of “gambler’s logic.”

Focus for Review: Did you ever get greedy while rolling, and refuse to stop? If it paid off, did you begin to think that that is “okay” to always do? If you busted after being greedy, how did that make you feel? How do the experiences you had during the game apply to real-life gambling?

Week 13 (4/9), Part 2 For Sale

forsaleGame Synopsis: Bid and bluff your way to purchase the most valuable real estate for the lowest amount of money. Then turn around and sell those houses (and shacks) for cold hard cash. Be the richest mogul at the end of the game to win this Stefan Dorra classic. Considered one of the finest bidding games of all time, For Sale has a devoted following of fans that is about to grow much, much larger.

Mental Health Goal: Learning when to back down from a “fight.”

Focus for Review: You see it quite often in television and movies – someone is angry about being overbid and won’t back down from an auction. Did this happen in your games? Did you feel the urge to overpay for a property because someone outbid you? How do you calm yourself down and convince yourself to walk away? How can this be applied to real life?

Week 14 (4/16) Bohnanza

bohnanzaGame Synopsis: This great card game is about planting, trading, and selling beans – 11 kinds of beans! Players try to collect large sets of beans to sell for gold. There is limited growing space and always new beans to plant. To avoid planting unwanted beans, players trade them to other players who want them for their bean fields

Mental Health Goal: Balancing cooperation with competition.

Focus for Review: How often did you trade or donate within the game? How shrewd were you and the other players? How did cooperating and trading work into your strategy and/or the strategy of the winners? How important was the emotional metagame (the game outside the game)? What kinds of situations in real life require you to cooperate with your competitors?

COMBINING ALL 4 UNITS

Week 15 (4/23) The Resistance

resistance2ndGame SynopsisThe Resistance is a very intense social deduction game for 5-10 players.  While it shares similarities with games like Werewolf,Mafia and even Battlestar Galactica, it has many very unique features such as a quick 30 minute play time, no moderator required and no player elimination.

Mental Health Goal: Learning how to read people’s tells, and to recover from misguided trust.

Focus for Review: Were you loyal or a spy? How did this affect your actions? What did you do to figure out whom to trust, or to trick people into trusting you? What verbal and nonverbal clues did you use? How did you and the other players react when the truth was revealed? Was anyone upset? Were you able to pretend to know things, or otherwise make use of your partial information? How could you apply what happened in the game to real-life situations?





Success in Mathematics Study Tips

4 01 2014

Tips on how to study mathematics, how to approach problem-solving, how to study for and take tests, and when and how to get help.

Math Study Skills

Active Study vs. Passive Study

Be actively involved in managing the learning process, the mathematics and your study time:

  • Take responsibility for studying, recognizing what you do and don’t know, and knowing how to get your Instructor to help you with what you don’t know.
  • Attend class every day and take complete notes. Instructors formulate test questions based on material and examples covered in class as well as on those in the text.
  • Be an active participant in the classroom. Get ahead in the book; try to work some of the problems before they are covered in class. Anticipate what the Instructor’s next step will be.
  • Ask questions in class! There are usually other students wanting to know the answers to the same questions you have.
  • Go to office hours and ask questions. The Instructor will be pleased to see that you are interested, and you will be actively helping yourself.
  • Good study habits throughout the semester make it easier to study for tests.

 

Studying Math is Different from Studying Other Subjects

  • Math is learned by doing problems. Do the homework. The problems help you learn the formulas and techniques you do need to know, as well as improve your problem-solving prowess.
  • A word of warning: Each class builds on the previous ones, all semester long. You must keep up with the Instructor: attend class, read the text and do homework every day. Falling a day behind puts you at a disadvantage. Falling a week behind puts you in deep trouble.
  • A word of encouragement: Each class builds on the previous ones, all semester long. You’re always reviewing previous material as you do new material. Many of the ideas hang together. Identifying and learning the key concepts means you don’t have to memorize as much.

 

College Math is Different from High School Math

A College math class meets less often and covers material at about twice the pace that a High School course does. You are expected to absorb new material much more quickly. Tests are probably spaced farther apart and so cover more material than before. The Instructor may not even check your homework.

  • Take responsibility for keeping up with the homework. Make sure you find out how to do it.
  • You probably need to spend more time studying per week – you do more of the learning outside of class than in High School.
  • Tests may seem harder just because they cover more material.

 

Study Time

You may know a rule of thumb about math (and other) classes: at least 2 hours of study time per class hour. But this may not be enough!

  • Take as much time as you need to do all the homework and to get complete understanding of the material.
  • Form a study group. Meet once or twice a week (also use the phone). Go over problems you’ve had trouble with. Either someone else in the group will help you, or you will discover you’re all stuck on the same problems. Then it’s time to get help from your Instructor.
  • The more challenging the material, the more time you should spend on it.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving (Homework and Tests)

  • The higher the math class, the more types of problems: in earlier classes, problems often required just one step to find a solution. Increasingly, you will tackle problems which require several steps to solve them. Break these problems down into smaller pieces and solve each piece – divide and conquer!
  • Problem types:
  1. Problems testing memorization (“drill”),
  2. Problems testing skills (“drill”),
  3. Problems requiring application of skills to familiar situations (“template” problems),
  4. Problems requiring application of skills to unfamiliar situations (you develop a strategy for a new problem type),
  5. Problems requiring that you extend the skills or theory you know before applying them to an unfamiliar situation.

In early courses, you solved problems of types 1, 2 and 3. By College Algebra you expect to do mostly problems of types 2 and 3 and sometimes of type 4. Later courses expect you to tackle more and more problems of types 3 and 4, and (eventually) of type 5. Each problem of types 4 or 5 usually requires you to use a multi-step approach, and may involve several different math skills and techniques.

  • When you work problems on homework, write out complete solutions, as if you were taking a test. Don’t just scratch out a few lines and check the answer in the back of the book. If your answer is not right, rework the problem; don’t just do some mental gymnastics to convince yourself that you could get the correct answer. If you can’t get the answer, get help.
  • The practice you get doing homework and reviewing will make test problems easier to tackle.

 

Tips on Problem Solving

  • Apply Pólya’s four-step process:
  1. The first and most important step in solving a problem is to understand the problem, that is, identify exactly which quantity the problem is asking you to find or solve for (make sure you read the whole problem).
  2. Next you need to devise a plan, that is, identify which skills and techniques you have learned can be applied to solve the problem at hand.
  3. Carry out the plan.
  4. Look back: Does the answer you found seem reasonable? Also review the problem and method of solution so that you will be able to more easily recognize and solve a similar problem.
  • Some problem-solving strategies: use one or more variables, complete a table, consider a special case, look for a pattern, guess and test, draw a picture or diagram, make a list, solve a simpler related problem, use reasoning, work backward, solve an equation, look for a formula, use coordinates.

 

“Word” Problems are Really “Applied” Problems

The term “word problem” has only negative connotations. It’s better to think of them as “applied problems”. These problems should be the most interesting ones to solve. Sometimes the “applied” problems don’t appear very realistic, but that’s usually because the corresponding real applied problems are too hard or complicated to solve at your current level. But at least you get an idea of how the math you are learning can help solve actual real-world problems.

 

Solving an Applied Problem

  • First convert the problem into mathematics. This step is (usually) the most challenging part of an applied problem. If possible, start by drawing a picture. Label it with all the quantities mentioned in the problem. If a quantity in the problem is not a fixed number, name it by a variable. Identify the goal of the problem. Then complete the conversion of the problem into math, i.e., find equations which describe relationships among the variables, and describe the goal of the problem mathematically.
  • Solve the math problem you have generated, using whatever skills and techniques you need (refer to the four-step process above).
  • As a final step, you should convert the answer of your math problem back into words, so that you have now solved the original applied problem.

For Further Reading:
George Pólya, How to Solve It,Princeton University Press, Princeton (1945)

Studying for a Math Test

Everyday Study is a Big Part of Test Preparation

Good study habits throughout the semester make it easier to study for tests.

  • Do the homework when it is assigned. You cannot hope to cram 3 or 4 weeks worth of learning into a couple of days of study.
  • On tests you have to solve problems; homework problems are the only way to get practice. As you do homework, make lists of formulas and techniques to use later when you study for tests.
  • Ask your Instructor questions as they arise; don’t wait until the day or two before a test. The questions you ask right before a test should be to clear up minor details.

 

Studying for a Test

  • Start by going over each section, reviewing your notes and checking that you can still do the homework problems (actually work the problems again). Use the worked examples in the text and notes – cover up the solutions and work the problems yourself. Check your work against the solutions given.

 

  • You’re not ready yet! In the book each problem appears at the end of the section in which you learned how do to that problem; on a test the problems from different sections are all together.
    • Step back and ask yourself what kind of problems you have learned how to solve, what techniques of solution you have learned, and how to tell which techniques go with which problems.
    • Try to explain out loud, in your own words, how each solution strategy is used (e.g. how to solve a quadratic equation). If you get confused during a test, you can mentally return to your verbal “capsule instructions”. Check your verbal explanations with a friend during a study session (it’s more fun than talking to yourself!).
    • Put yourself in a test-like situation: work problems from review sections at the end of chapters, and work old tests if you can find some. It’s important to keep working problems the whole time you’re studying.
    • Also:
      • Start studying early. Several days to a week before the test (longer for the final), begin to allot time in your schedule to reviewing for the test.
      • Get lots of sleep the night before the test. Math tests are easier when you are mentally sharp.

Taking a Math Test

Test-Taking Strategy Matters

Just as it is important to think about how you spend your study time (in addition to actually doing the studying), it is important to think about what strategies you will use when you take a test (in addition to actually doing the problems on the test). Good test-taking strategy can make a big difference to your grade!

 

Taking a Test

  • First look over the entire test. You’ll get a sense of its length. Try to identify those problems you definitely know how to do right away, and those you expect to have to think about.
  • Do the problems in the order that suits you! Start with the problems that you know for sure you can do. This builds confidence and means you don’t miss any sure points just because you run out of time. Then try the problems you think you can figure out; then finally try the ones you are least sure about.
  • Time is of the essence – work as quickly and continuously as you can while still writing legibly and showing all your work. If you get stuck on a problem, move on to another one – you can come back later.
  • Work by the clock. On a 50 minute, 100 point test, you have about 5 minutes for a 10 point question. Starting with the easy questions will probably put you ahead of the clock. When you work on a harder problem, spend the allotted time (e.g., 5 minutes) on that question, and if you have not almost finished it, go on to another problem. Do not spend 20 minutes on a problem which will yield few or no points when there are other problems still to try.
  • Show all your work: make it as easy as possible for the Instructor to see how much you do know. Try to write a well-reasoned solution. If your answer is incorrect, the Instructor will assign partial credit based on the work you show.
  • Never waste time erasing! Just draw a line through the work you want ignored and move on. Not only does erasing waste precious time, but you may discover later that you erased something useful (and/or maybe worth partial credit if you cannot complete the problem). You are (usually) not required to fit your answer in the space provided – you can put your answer on another sheet to avoid needing to erase.
  • In a multiple-step problem outline the steps before actually working the problem.
  • Don’t give up on a several-part problem just because you can’t do the first part. Attempt the other part(s) – if the actual solution depends on the first part, at least explain how you would do it.
  • Make sure you read the questions carefully, and do all parts of each problem.
  • Verify your answers – does each answer make sense given the context of the problem?
  • If you finish early, check every problem (that means rework everything from scratch).

Getting Assistance

When

Get help as soon as you need it. Don’t wait until a test is near. The new material builds on the previous sections, so anything you don’t understand now will make future material difficult to understand.

 

Use the Resources You Have Available

  • Ask questions in class. You get help and stay actively involved in the class.
  • Visit the Instructor’s Office Hours. Instructors like to see students who want to help themselves.
  • Ask friends, members of your study group, or anyone else who can help. The classmate who explains something to you learns just as much as you do, for he/she must think carefully about how to explain the particular concept or solution in a clear way. So don’t be reluctant to ask a classmate.
  • Go to the Math Help Sessions or other tutoring sessions on campus.
  • Find a private tutor if you can’t get enough help from other sources.
  • All students need help at some point, so be sure to get the help you need.

 

Asking Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Any question is better than no question at all (at least your Instructor/tutor will know you are confused). But a good question will allow your helper to quickly identify exactly what you don’t understand.

  • Not too helpful comment: “I don’t understand this section.” The best you can expect in reply to such a remark is a brief review of the section, and this will likely overlook the particular thing(s) which you don’t understand.
  • Good comment: “I don’t understand why f(x + h) doesn’t equal f(x) + f(h).” This is a very specific remark that will get a very specific response and hopefully clear up your difficulty.
  • Good question: “How can you tell the difference between the equation of a circle and the equation of a line?”
  • Okay question: “How do you do #17?”
  • Better question: “Can you show me how to set up #17?” (the Instructor can let you try to finish the problem on your own), or “This is how I tried to do #17. What went wrong?” The focus of attention is on your thought process.
  • Right after you get help with a problem, work another similar problem by yourself.

 

You Control the Help You Get

Helpers should be coaches, not crutches. They should encourage you, give you hints as you need them, and sometimes show you how to do problems. But they should not, nor be expected to, actually do the work youneed to do. They are there to help you figure out how to learn math for yourself.

  • When you go to office hours, your study group or a tutor, have a specific list of questions prepared in advance. You should run the session as much as possible.
  • Do not allow yourself to become dependent on a tutor. The tutor cannot take the exams for you. You must take care to be the one in control of tutoring sessions.
  • You must recognize that sometimes you do need some coaching to help you through, and it is up to you to seek out that coaching.

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY
June 1993





Editing Your Life’s Stories Can Create Happier Endings

2 01 2014

by LULU MILLER

January 01, 2014 2:00 PM

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

It was a rainy night in October when my nephew Lewis passed the Frankenstein statue standing in front of a toy store. The 2 1/2-year-old boy didn’t see the monster at first, and when he turned around, he was only inches from Frankenstein’s green face, bloodshot eyes and stitched-up skin.

The 4-foot-tall monster terrified my nephew so much that he ran deep into the toy store. And on the way back out, he simply couldn’t face the statue. He jumped into his mother’s arms and had to bury his head in her shoulder.

For hours after the incident, Lewis was stuck. He kept replaying the image of Frankenstein’s face in his mind. “Mom, remember Frankenstein?” he asked over and over again. He and his mom talked about how scary the statue was, how Lewis had to jump into her arms. It was “like a record loop,” my sister said.

But then, suddenly, Lewis’ story completely changed. My sister was recounting the tale to the family: how they left the store, how they had to walk by Frankenstein. And then — “I peed on him!!” Lewis blurted out triumphantly, with a glint in his eyes.

In that instant, Lewis had overpowered Frankenstein — if only in his mind.

“Well, your nephew is a brilliant story editor,'” says psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia.

Wilson has been studying how small changes in a person’s own stories and memories can help with emotional health. He calls the process “story editing.” And he says small tweaks in the interpretation of life events can reap huge benefits.

This process is essentially what happens during months, or years, of therapy. But Wilson has discovered ways you can change your story in only about 45 minutes.

Wilson first stumbled on the technique back in the early 1980s, when he found that a revised story helped college students who were struggling academically. “I’m bad at school” was the old story many of them were telling themselves. That story leads to a self-defeating cycle that keeps them struggling, Wilson says.

The new story Wilson gave them was: “Everyone fails at first.” He introduced the students to this idea by having them read accounts from other students who had struggled with grades at first and then improved. It was a 40-minute intervention that had effects three years later.

“The ones who got our little story-editing nudge improved their grades, whereas the others didn’t,” Wilson says. “And to our surprise … those who got our story-editing intervention were more likely to stay in college. The people in the control group were more likely to drop out.”

Similar interventions have also helped students feel like they fit in socially at college and have helped parents to stop abusing their kids.

The idea is that if you believe you are something else — perhaps smarter, more socially at ease — you can allow for profound changes to occur.

You can even try story-editing yourself at home with these writing exercises. Simply pick a troubling event. And write about it for 15 minutes each day for four days. That’s it.

These exercises have been shown to help relieve mental anguish, improve health and increase attendance at work.

No one is sure why the approach works. But Wilson’s theory is that trying to understand why a painful event happened is mentally consuming. People get stuck in thinking, “Why did he leave me?” or “Why was she so disappointed in me?” Or for Lewis, “Where did that scary Frankenstein face come from?”

As you write about the troubling, confusing event again and again, eventually you begin to make sense of it. You can put those consuming thoughts to rest.

So as you look forward to changing yourself this year, consider looking back on whatever your Frankensteins may be. And if you squint your eyes a little and turn your head just a bit, you may see that your leg was lifted. That maybe you did pee on him after all.