How To Appreciate Your Student’s Diversity

August 30, 2007 at 6:57 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, friends, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, personal, poetry, politics, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing)

This is a powerful reminder of the challenges – and joys that we face – in dealing with our diverse student population.

Welcome to Holland
By Emily Perl KingsleyI am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip-to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas of Venice. You learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you might never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Building Habits

August 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm (all, blogging, children, classroom management, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, food, friends, High School, history, humor, kids, life, love, Middle School, movies, music, news, Parents, personal, photography, poetry, politics, principals, reading, religion, school, school administration, sports, teachers, technology, Thornebrooke, thoughts, travel, Uncategorized, video, women, writing)

It takes 27 days to form a habit. Remember when your mother used to ask you to make your bed every day? Then, after a while, you simply started making it on your own —without having to be reminded to do it. Making your bed every day had become a habit.

In my column, Laying the Groundwork, I discussed the importance of brainstorming expectations and procedures as part of laying the groundwork for building good habits. This time, I want to discuss in a little more detail the kinds of habits we want to build in our students — and how we can build them.

When thinking about the kinds of good habits you want students to develop, go back to that list of expectations and procedures you created. For me, for example, it’s important that students enter my classroom, check their mailboxes, and start working on their focus assignment before the first bell rings. It’s important that when I use the quiet signal, my students get quiet and focus on me. I expect my students to stay in a quiet straight line when I walk with them down the hall. It’s also important to me for students to be silent, with a clean area, before I dismiss them. Those types of habits, as well as others, also might be important to you. If you’re not really sure what you expect of your students, then take some time right now to brainstorm those actions and behaviors that you want to become habits for your students.

Okay, you have your list. You might be asking yourself, “Why is it important that I help build these habits?” The reason is to save yourself stress later on in the school year. Spring semester might seem like a long way away, but it will come around a lot faster than you think. Students who are not following good habits in the fall have a tendency to let spring fever get out of hand. Behavior can become more erratic then, and without good habits in place, students are more likely to get out of control. By setting the standards at the beginning of the year and turning good behaviors into good habits, you save yourself a lot of time and stress later.

But how can you build in students the good habits you expect? First, clearly explain your expectations to students. Next, make sure students practice the correct actions and behaviors daily. (It’s especially important to practice behaviors over and over again during the first couple of weeks of school.) Third, be consistent about requiring specific behaviors. If you see students not meeting your expectations, don’t be afraid to stop and take the time to practice the correct action or behavior right then and there.

For example, if I notice that many students are entering the classroom and “hanging out” without starting their work before the bell rings, I stop everything and practice my expectations. I have students file out of the classroom and re-enter correctly. If students are not following my quiet signal, we stop immediately and practice until they get it right. By doing that consistently, students begin to see that I will hold them accountable for their actions. After 27 days or more of doing the same actions over and over again, the behaviors become a habit for students. What you want to achieve is a classroom in which students know what to do and when to do it. That is a well-disciplined classroom.
You might find, of course, that as the year progresses, you need to stop and practice your expectations again. That is perfectly normal and can be thought of as “maintenance.”

Before you know it, however, your students will be entering the classroom and doing exactly what you expect of them — whether you are there to remind them or not. Good behavior has become — just like making your bed each day — a habit. In the end, that’s precisely what we strive to accomplish.
As you work toward that goal, remember the maxim “Good habits are hard to break” — and practice, practice, practice.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Teaching Adolescents

April 24, 2007 at 6:28 am (all, blogging, children, culture, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, ESOL, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke, thoughts, writing)

Teaching adolescents
What and why?

Teachers’ views on the teaching of adolescents vary enormously. Some love it, and would not choose to teach any other age range. Probably almost as many, however, find it difficult, often more difficult the older the adolescent students become. The first important point to make, however, is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to generalize about ‘adolescence’. There is enormous variation in the nature of the adolescent period from individual to individual, and from culture to culture. In some cultures, children seem to remain ‘children’ longer; in others they appear to grow up very quickly. Some adolescents find the movement from being ‘a child’ to being ‘an adult’ a very troublesome one, whilst others do not experience any particular problems. What is clear is that during the period of adolescence, an individual’s sense of who they are may often go through many transformations. Bodily changes as well as rapid changes in opinions, tastes, habits and relations between the sexes may combine to give the impression that it is not one person that we are dealing with, but several!

Parents and teachers of adolescents often report that the period can place great strain on their relationships. Adolescents may be seeking independence and this may conflict with the views of the parents/teachers. As the time may be a period of great change for the adolescent, they may often seem restless – unsure if they are doing what they want to do or should be doing. They may also be anxious about the future: ‘What is to become of me?’, ‘What next?’, ‘Will I cope?’, ‘What will happen if …?’ All of these things may require great patience from everyone concerned.

Practical ideas

Given that the period of adolescence is so changeable, it is difficult to offer clear advice about how to best handle the teaching of adolescents. There are, however, some general points which teachers have shared with us and which we have found useful.

Be patient. Things may take longer to achieve in the classroom than you anticipate. The students may seem tired or unwilling. Very often this is because of factors completely outside the classroom.

Be flexible. Conflicts can be avoided if the teacher is prepared to be flexible about when and how things are done. This may be a matter of tolerating classroom behavior that you don’t approve of, for example. However, you have to also make clear the limits of what you are prepared to accept.

Be sensitive. Teachers often report that adolescent students are frequently moody – they can be happy and bright one day and deflated the next day. As a teacher, it is important for you to keep note of these changes and, where necessary, talk to the student to see if they are having problems.

Allow choice and student decisions. It may also be useful if you can be flexible about what the students do. If you can provide them with choice and allow room for their personal interests, you are likely to find it much easier working with them. You can also involve them in decisions about what you will do in the lessons and ask them to plan activities, choose texts, music and so on.

Show respect. The students must have a clear sense of respect for you as the teacher, but equally you must have a sense of respect for them – recognizing, for example, that their opinions, tastes in clothes, music, etc. are equally valid. That said, your role is as an educator, so it should remain your responsibility to encourage students to question what they are saying or doing, and to ensure that limits are set and maintained for the benefit of everyone.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Fun in the Classroom – Pt 3

March 27, 2007 at 6:31 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Thornebrooke)

Can you believe it?  This is the last tip from Jonathan Erwin’s Classroom of Choice.  I hope that you have found this series to be useful.

The following are fun activities that can be used for transitions, tension-busting, or camaraderie building.

Who Is the Leader?

This game starts out with the students sitting in a circle in chairs or at desks.  One person leaves the room.  Another person is chosen to be leader.  The leader stays in his place and gestures, makes faces, and fidgets.  The rest of the class follow along with the leader’s actions.  The student who left the room returns, joins the circle, and tries to guess who the leader is by carefully observing the group.

I’m Going to California

Everyone sits in a circle.  Someone begins by saying, “I’m going to California, and when I go, I’m taking      .”  The first player fills in the blank with anything: “my favorite CD” or something else.  Player 2 must say “I’m going to California, and when I go, I’m taking – and list Player 1’s object and a new one.  This is a great game to stress focus. 

Zip Zap Boing

This game helps students learn to focus and concentrate.  It begins with students standing or sitting in a circle.  One player starts by turning his head sharply to the right, and exclaiming, “zip!” with energy and enthusiasm.  The player to his right keeps it going, snapping her head to the right and saying “zip!”  This continues around the circle until a player shouts “boing!” as he turns back to the person to his left.  This person snaps his head to the left and says, “zap!”  Now the wave of zaps continues to the left around the group until another player says, “boing!”  The object of the game is to create a fast continuous flowing sound and movement around the circle.  It takes practice to get to that point, but the practice is lots of fun!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Brain Breaks

March 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, humor, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers)

Working Smarter With Brain Breaks

From a selection of teaching tips by Clinton Lamprecht.

Clinton Lamprecht founded the School of Accelerated Learning and since then has trained thousands of teaching and training professionals in brain-compatible learning strategies worldwide. A degree in psychology, a thesis in accelerated learning, an NLP Trainer and over 10 years’ experience in training and learning confirms he brings with him a rich perspective and experience in accelerated learning that will rarely be matched.

Working Smarter with Brain Breaks
Regular breaks improve learning because they give students time to make sense of information. In the classroom, children need breaks approximately every 20 minutes for learning to be effective. During these breaks, the brain becomes more relaxed and this helps new information sink in on a deeper level because the child is integrating what has been learnt on a non-conscious level. The rule of thumb is to have more beginnings and more endings to boost memory.

Action Steps

Stop after 20 minutes and get students to stand up and talk to a partner for 1 minute about the most valuable thing they have learnt, Then change chairs. Three brain friendly learning outcomes are achieved with this exercise:

Students get time to download and make sense of the information.
Learners’ emotional state changes with the movement to a new seat.
More primacies (beginnings) and regencies (endings) help boost memory.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Fun in the Classroom – Drama Games

March 19, 2007 at 5:52 pm (all, blogging, children, culture, drama, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, humor, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers)


Can you believe it?  We are almost at the end of the school year – and this series of Monday tips based on the book “The Classroom of Choice” by Jonathan Erwin.  We have been discussing how to meet your students’ need for fun in the classroom.  Today – drama games.

As a child, some of your favorite games probably involved imagination and role-playing.  As we age, the demands of daily life can erode our imagination.  Drama games can help exercise the imagination, and thus help retain the creative potential that we had as children.  Drama games can also help students develop key skills such as listening, self-expression, articulation, concentration, focus, self-control, spontaneity, and confidence.  Finally, drama games give students a chance to move, to interact, and to enjoy the two kinds of freedom (freedom to and freedom from) that we discussed previously.

Games for verbal expression

Tongue twisters – This verbal game provides good exercise for clear articulation and can be a good transition between classroom activities.  They also help develop focus and concentration.

Quacking up – This warm-up can be used to get people laughing and bonding.  

1.    Give each student a card with the name of an animal on it or whisper to each student the name of an animal.  Choose animals whose sounds are easy to imitate.

2.    Have the class stand in a circle.

3.    Ask them to close their eyes, and tell them when you say, “Go!”, they are to make their animal sound and see how many others of their kind they can find and stand together using the sense of hearing. 

You can also use this to form cooperative groups. 

One-minute please – Pick a student’s name from a hat.  The student must pick a 3 x 5 card from a deck that the teacher has prepared.  On the card is a subject that the student must talk about for one whole minute.  This activity can be used to review and helps students learn presentation skills and how to think on their feet.

Games for physical expression 

Walk this way – Students stand in a circle, each person a couple of paces behind the person in front of her, and begin walking around and around the circle.  The teacher calls out, “Walk as if       ,” filling in the blank with a descriptor (You weigh 2000 pounds, you are in pain, you are on the moon, you are on a hot sidewalk with bare feet, you are getting yelled at, you are angry,…).  For the next few moments, everyone pantomimes walking as if they weighed a ton. 

Musical statues – The teacher plays a dance tune.  When the music stops, everyone freezes absolutely still, like statues.  Anyone who moves is out.  The judging becomes stricter until only one person is left. 

Improvisation games

Three props on a box – The teacher selects three props (possibly from the unit) and places them on a box.  A student selected at random has to come up and tell a story involving all three props.  The more incongruous the props, the more fun and challenging the game is for everyone.

First lines – Each pair of students is handed a card with the first line to an improvised skit on it, and they take it from there.  Let the action continue until they need to be rescued. 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Enjoying Spring Break

March 8, 2007 at 7:02 pm (blogging, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, friends, High School, humor, kids, life, Middle School, news, Parents, personal, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers, Uncategorized)

Looking for ideas as to how to enjoy spring break? If so, check out these sites. The first one offers strange, quirky ideas. The second one has the more “traditional” offerings. No matter your choice, take time to relax and enjoy the vacation!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Fun in the Classroom – Pt 2

March 6, 2007 at 4:37 am (all, children, Education, Educational Leadership, Elementary, High School, humor, kids, Middle School, Parents, principals, reading, school, school administration, teachers)

Many students enjoy mental play as much as physical play. Mental games benefit kids, helping them to hone their analytic skills and creativity, and to learn to think “outside the box.” The games in this section can be used in a variety of ways. Some teachers have a brainteaser of the day. Others use them as a transition activity between two subjects or activities. Still others use mental games as an integral part of a learning unit – engaging students in a new unit or extending their knowledge and skills later on.

1. Sequences

Create sequences that have a logical pattern that is not immediately obvious, and have students explain the sequence or predict the next item. Ex: 8 5 4 9 1 7 6 3 2 0 (Answer – the numbers are in alphabetical order.)

2. Dictionary Game

For this verbally creative game, you need only a dictionary, paper, pens, and a chalkboard.

*On slips of paper, have students write invented definitions for words chose by the teacher. (The teacher checks to see if anyone knows the correct definition.)

*The teacher collects the slips of paper, adding the correct definition, and shuffles them.

*In pairs or small groups, have the students choose the definition they think is the correct one.

*Teams get points for choosing correct definitions. Individual students get points for fooling others into choosing their definitions.

3. Restructuring Words

This verbal challenge can also be used to teach cooperative groups how to work effectively together.

*Present students in cooperative groups with a fairly long multisyllabic word.

*Challenge the groups to find as many small words as they can within the larger word.

*Letters may be rearranged.

*Announce the time limit.

*Post the total number of words the class came up with. Try to beat the number the next time.

4. Math Mind Games

Present a math puzzler at the beginning of class to get the students engaged while you prepare to teach. Let students work independently or with a partner.

5. What Was That You Said?

This is a great game to boost your students’ vocabulary. Present students with complicated phrases and ask them to use a dictionary to translate them into well-know sayings or phrases.

Ex: Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minikin. (Twinkle, twinkle, little star.)
Ex: A plethora of individuals with expertise in culinary techniques vitiates the potable concoction produced by steeping certain comestibles. (Too many cooks spoil the broth.)

6. Lateral Thinking Puzzles

These puzzles are designed to get students to think “outside the box,” to be logical and imaginative at the same time. They can be done independently, but work best in cooperative groups.

Ex: A Fishy Tale – An old woman had a pet goldfish that she loved dearly. One day she noticed that is was swimming feebly and looked unwell. She rushed it to the vet and he told her to come back in the hour. When she returned, she found the goldfish swimming strongly and looking healthy. What happened? (The vet could see that the goldfish was dying of old age, so to spare the old lady’s feelings, he dashed out and bought a young but identical fish, and disposed of the old one.)

These are quite a few books that have lateral puzzles in a variety of subjects.

7. WALLY Test Questions

The World Association for Laughing, Learning, and Youth (WALLY) designed questions to trick and frustrate you, but also to make you laugh. They are to be answered quickly, so tell your students they have no more than 10 seconds to write their responses.

Ex: What is twice the half of 1 1/4?

Answer: 1 1/4

Ex: If two peacocks lay two eggs in two days, how many eggs can one peacock lay in four days?

Answer: None, peacocks don’t lay eggs; peahens do.

Permalink Leave a Comment