Living Strategically: 50 Lessons Chess Teaches You About Life

2 02 2015

Ideas Out There

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1. In chess, every move has a purpose. Life obviously cannot be lived with this much unceasing calculation, nor should we want to live it that way, but there are times when we must align our actions with a predetermined strategy, instead of bumbling through it.

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2. Play for the advantage. If you already have it, maintain it. If you don’t have it, seize it.

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3. Everyone’s playing. Sometimes it’s a friendly, often it is more serious. The problem is that not everyone knows they’re playing – even after they have made a move.

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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.