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In our current world, positive interactions and good conversation skills are more important than ever.  The following article by Allen Mendler gives suggestions to help educators teach these important skills.   Fostering the skills in your classroom will create a culture and environment of warmth and trust.  

8 Tips for Speaking and Listening

While it is impossible to know all of the reasons, there is no doubt that learning to listen and talk is an extremely important way to broaden knowledge, enhance understanding and build community. Perhaps this is why the core standards in English-language arts include an important emphasis on developing speaking and listening, the basic tools for conversation. The eight tips below can be used regularly to help your kids learn good conversational skills.

1. Model a Good Conversation

Make a point of having one-to-two minute interactions, one-on-one, at least a few times each week with students who struggle conversationally. Share information about yourself as you might when meeting a friend or acquaintance, and show interest in the student by asking questions about his or her interests. Conversation enhancers include responses and prompts like:

  • "Really?"
  • "Wow!"
  • "That’s interesting."
  • "No kidding!"

If these students don't or won't share easily at first, don't give up.

2. Encourage Physical Cues

Identify procedures for having a conversation that includes appropriate non-verbal behavior. For example, you might teach a strategy like S.L.A.N.T. (Sit up straight. Listen. Answer and ask questions. Nod to show interest. Track the speaker.)

3. Challenge Put-Downs or Hurtful Comments

For example, if a student says, "I think what she did was really stupid," challenge with "How else can you say that without being hurtful?" If the student seems unaware, teach an alternative like, "I disagree with that." Ask the student to repeat what you said and then move on to:

  • "What happened to make you feel that way?"
  • "How would you have handled things differently?"
  • "Do you think there is only right answer, or could there be more?"

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

These are questions without one correct answer, questions that stimulate discussion and can be a very powerful way to reinforce the idea that there are different views of an issue, or a set of beliefs that can be equally valid. For example: "So if Columbus came knocking on your door and told you that sailing to the New World would be an amazing adventure and there might be lots of riches there, but you might never arrive because the world was flat, would you go?"

5. Put Thinking Ahead of Knowing

When asked a question, don’t accept "I don't know." Tell students that you don't require them to "know" but that you do expect them to "think." Teach them how to wonder aloud, speculate, guess or give the best answer they can. ("I'm not sure about that, but I think _____ .")

6. Have Informal Chats

Before class begins or in the hallway, ask students about their other classes, what they think about a current event, or how they feel about the outcome of a game. Share your thoughts as well. ("I thought it was more that the Jets lost the game than anything the Eagles did to win. How did you see it?")

7. Make Eye Contact

When a student is speaking in class and you are listening, give him or her your eye contact. However, gradually scan away from the speaker and direct your gaze and movement towards other students. This will often get the speaker to redirect his or her talk toward peers, and it invites peers to get and stay involved with what is being said.

8. Encourage Turn-Taking

Use an object, such as a talking stick, as a signal for turn-taking. Teach your students that when they have the object, it is their turn to talk or pass while others are expected to listen.

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Apter, B., Arnold, C., & Swinson, J. (2010). A mass observation study of student and teacher behaviour in British primary classrooms Educational Psychology in Practice, 26(2), 151-171.

Brophy, J. (2006). History of research on classroom management. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 17-43). Mahwah, NJ: Eribaum.

Rath, T., & Clifton, D. O. (2015). How full is your bucket? (Rath & Clifton, 2015, p. 5-31).

How Full Is Your BucketNobel prize winning scientist, Daniel Kahmeman states that as individuals we experience about 20,000 interactions each day. Daniels calls these interactions moments. These moments are recorded by our brains as experiences. The quality of  our day is determined by how our body and brain can categorize our moments- either positive or negative, or just neutral. Neutral moments do not make as great of an impact, nor are remembered.

Over the last decade Scientists have studied the impact of positive to negative interaction ratios in our work, and personal lives. They can predict success in live with amazing accuracy in many ways- including education, workplace performance, and relationships.

Noted psychologist John Gottman’s research on positive to negative feedback using a ratio of 5:1  He calls this the Magic Ratio. In Donald Clifton’s and Tom Rath’s Book, “How Full Is Your Bucket” – He uses the term Bucket & Dipper.

The Effect size of using positive feedback in your classroom is a 0.75 percent. In-order to make Feedback most effective, remember to provide the following:

  • Use timely prompts to our students when they have done something correctly or incorrectly.
  • Give students the opportunity to use the feedback to continue their learning process.
  • End feedback with the student performing the skill correctly and receiving positive acknowledgement from you-the teacher.

Please view these two video clips from the Teaching Channel on creating a comfortable classroom environment, and how to use some silent attention-getting techniques.  Both of these videos cover Standard 1, Positive Learning Environment / Classroom Management.  The focus is on positive behavior and using instructional supports in a positive environment.

Creating a “Comfortable” Classroom Environment: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/building-a-comfortable-classroom

Get Their Attention Without Saying a Word: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/silent-attention-getting-technique

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reflecting on learningDr. Brene Brown, a popular author and research professor at the University of Houston, spoke to a teacher group last March.

7 Words That Might Change the Way You Teach, an article on the We Are Teachers website, is based on Dr. Brown’s presentation and wise advice to teachers.  She encourages educations to create “Daring Classrooms” where students are safe to be themselves, learn, and grow.

Please visit the link below to read the article.  Embedded in the article is the video of Dr. Brown’s address to the teachers.  Enjoy!

https://www.weareteachers.com/brene-brown-daring-classrooms/

Shaming is on the forefront of issues we need to reflect upon and figure out a way to readdress with our management skills in the classroom. How can we as educators address the practice of shaming?

Brown suggests seven words that will teach courage. Hence, by adding these four skill sets in your room will help us eradicate shame in the classroom.

With seven words Brown defines in her speech you can begin to understand how to work towards a “Daring Classroom” yourself.

You can make your classroom, a culture of courage, the only space a child has, to take off  the armor of his or her heart. One betrayal is shame, it cannot happen in that classroom. Shaming incidents at school, forever changes how you think of yourself, 90 percent men and women surveyed can remember a teacher, coach, or admin that believed in themselves when no one else did.

Do not question the power you have with the people you teach. Shame resilient classrooms are imperative. The shame or threat that they are unlovable just should not exist in our schools. Ranking of importance for a child goes like this : parents, teachers, clergy, peers. You can make difference in students lives.

The classroom may be the only place in your students’ lives where they can feel comfortable enough to be courageous. According to Brown, courage can be taught (yes, taught) and developed if these four pillars are present:

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Clarity of Values
  3. Trust
  4. Rising Skills (The ability to get back up when we fall)

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”

It opens us up to pain and tragedy. But it also opens us up to love, joy, and connection, among many of the other feelings that make life worth living; feelings that we strive for everyday. And learning is inherently vulnerable: “It’s like you have a classroom filled with turtles without shells.”

Encouraging vulnerability in the classroom or in life is not synonymous with “coddling.” Quite the opposite, actually. It means inviting students to open themselves up, abandon their comfort, and learn in a more personal and intentional way. So, what does it take to invite vulnerability?

Courage

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, courage is defined as, “The ability to do something that frightens one.” However, the original definition of courage is “To tell the story of yourself with your whole heart.”

Shame v. Guilt

Shame is “the intensely painful belief that there is something about us that makes us unworthy of love and belonging.”

85% of the people Brené Brown interviewed could remember a shaming incident at school that was so devastating that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. Perhaps even more eye-opening: “Through about fifth grade, shame is literally the threat of being unlovable. It is trauma because they are dependent. Shame is a threat to survival.”

It is the great betrayal of vulnerability. Shame is not, however, the same as guilt. “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Guilt: ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’ Shame: ‘I’m sorry. I am a mistake.'”

A simple change in wording can allow you to more accurately (and positively) express how you view your students and, in turn, better shape how your students view and treat themselves and each other.

Humiliation and Embarrassment

Humiliation is the feeling that you deserve the bad treatment someone puts you through because you believe they are right. Embarrassment is the feeling that you did not deserve however you were treated, regardless of what you’ve done.

The real example that Brené Brown gave was heartbreaking:

“Susie is sitting in her classroom as her teacher is passing out papers. The teacher says, ‘I have one paper left. Who didn’t get a paper?’ Silence from the class. And, with more emphasis the teacher says, ‘I SAID, I have one paper left. Who didn’t get a paper?’ Susie slowly raises her hand. The teacher comes over and says, ‘I’m not surprised. Class are you surprised? Here Susie, I’ll help you out.” And, then the teacher proceeds to write on her paper where the student’s name would go: STUPID.”

Whether it’s humiliation or embarrassment comes down to Susie’s response. If she believes her teacher, then she is humiliated; “She’s right. I am stupid.” If she believes her teacher is being a jerk, then it’s embarrassment. “Obviously my teacher either woke up on the wrong side of the bed!”

With this, it is important to be mindful of how we make students feel when we talk to them. Belittling students will not make them grow; it will make them resent you, at best.

Embarrassment, according to Brown, is felt when you know you can connect with others in the midst of a difficult situation, reminded that you are not alone. Shame requires that you feel hopeless and alone.

Empathy

“Empathy is… communicating that incredibly healing message of, ‘You are not alone.'”

Ensuring students never feel that they are alone requires an immense amount of vulnerability on the part of the teacher. You must be willing to be uncomfortable and vulnerable, connecting with your students instead of leaving them to dry out in the heat of their circumstance all by themselves.

Brené Brown states that, “The number one exacerbator of shame in a conversation is empathic failure.” Empathic failure is responding to vulnerability with “You’re fine!” instead of, “Tell me why this was so painful.” This affirmation, meeting the student where they are and walking with them through their difficulties, can be transformative not only for them, but for you.

 

If you want to learn more about Dr. Brene Brown, her work, and how it could transform your life, I highly recommend her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

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From Ian Byrd’s Website:  www.byrdseed.com/tickling-curosity/ 

Ian Byrd’s website has some interesting articles on questioning. In the article link above, he uses the students’ curiosity to teach them how to create questions. This technique could be taught as early as third grade and would work well in middle and high school.

Ian Bryd states, “School is often, quite strangely, not a place where students feel comfortable being curious. But you can change that with a determined and consistent effort…by intentionally promoting curiosity as a classroom habit.”

In his first step he uses a binder titled ‘The Book of Unanswered Questions’.  He wants his students to be actively curious, make them aware that they don’t know everything, and understand that some answers are findable and some are not. Ian goes on to explain that if you just say, “Write your questions in this book,” it’s dead in the water. Like anything complex, we’ve got to scaffold it through modeling and structured participation.

Scaffolding is his next step. He starts by demonstrating curiosity by bringing in an image, video, song, or object that is interesting, yet creates authentic questions.

He uses questions like; How long….., What else……, I wonder….., Why do you think…..  Next he gives students a chance to ask questions and then directs them to the ‘Book of Unanswered Questions’. The book is about questions that he wants them to find out on their own and share the next day in class. At the beginning of this process he expects that one student will come the next day with the answer. Ian suggests that the teacher spends a few minutes on this daily.

Step three is connecting the ‘The Book of Unanswered Questions’ to your curriculum: social studies, science, literacy, and even math, etc. Eventually, everyday his students write an unanswered question and put it in the book.

His last step in using the ‘Book of Unanswered Questions’  is to help students to ponder which questions have answers and which ones need more pondering.

Check out Ian Bryd’s website!  www.byrdseed.com   His ideas on teaching students to ask interesting questions are engaging and impactful!

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From Ian Byrd’s Website:  www.byrdseed.com

http://www.byrdseed.com/to-differentiate-lower-floors-and-raise-ceilings/

Ian Byrd writes interesting articles on teaching children.  His website has numerous, helpful ideas on differentiating instruction. In the article link above, he clarifies that a low floor is an easy task and a high floor is a difficult task. Byrd compares it to Tic Tac Toe and Chess. He states, “We want tasks with low floors so many students can get started easily…The ceiling is the potential room for a task to grow…. One is easy to master and the other one you could play for a lifetime and still learn more.” Byrd goes on to say that a skilled teacher can lower a floor on any task. A teacher does this through modeling, guided practice, scaffolding, feedback, and proximity.

Ian Byrd believes that it should be the teacher’s goal to develop tasks that all students can get started with, but that also scale up for students who are ready for more: Differentiation! Start with your highest-ability students first, then figure out how to get everyone else started.

Assigning students more is not the best way to differentiate.  More math problems for an advanced student in Math is ‘busy work’! Byrd reminds us that it is really hard to raise the ceiling on a worksheet, but it’s easy to lower the floor on a research project!

Check out Ian Byrd’s website.  His ideas on differentiating instruction for students are extremely useful.

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Some thoughts about the first days of school:

  • 1st day of school will make or break a teacher
  • Effective teachers manage the classroom more than discipline the classroom
  •  Establish a well-managed classroom
    • Students deeply involved with their work
    • Students know expectations
    • Students are generally successful
    • Little wasted time, confusion, or disruptions
    • Climate of class is task-oriented but relaxed and pleasant
    • You as the teacher will be happier
  • Main problem in classroom is lack of procedures & routines
    • Explain, rehearse, reinforce
    • Effective teachers spend time rehearsing routines
  • Design a Successful Start
    • Have room ready--be at the door and smile
    • You have assigned seats—Project on screen
    • 1st assignment on the board—short, interesting, easy
    • Have students start work immediately
    • If student enters room inappropriately, have the student return to door and enter again appropriately
    • Learn students’ names
  • Plan Routines and Procedures
    • Have room ready
    • You are at the door
    • You have assigned seats—Project on screen
    • 1st assignment on the board—short, interesting, easy
    • Students start work immediately
    • If student enters room inappropriate, have student return to door and enter again appropriately
  • Classroom Management Plan
    • 3-5 measurable, specific, positive rules
    • Examples: a compliance rule, a preparation rule, a talking rule, a classroom behavior rule
    • Plan appropriate rewards; have a hierarchy of consequences
  • Be Professional 
  • Adhere to contract hours
  • Dress professionally
  • Computer belongs to school; do not use inappropriately
  • Start Student Learning on Day One
    • Make sure students understand this is a learning environment   
    • Go through routines, rules, and procedures
    • Go over “I Can” statement (objective) every day
  • Curriculum Map/Lesson Plan
  • Develop a yearlong curriculum map based on core standards
  • Develop lesson plans that navigate through the class and reflect on map                    
  • Take Care of Yourself
  • Take care of your heath; better to prevent than to treat
  • Know how to call for a substitute
  • Develop an emergency substitute plan and leave on desk every night
  • A happy teacher smiles more and makes better choices

 

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Mindset Philosophy of Gifted and Talented

Chapter 7 challenges us as teachers to look at a process of labeling a child "gifted". Doesn't telling a child that  he /she is "gifted" manifest a fixed mindset? We never want to say, "You are so smart" but saying, "You are gifted" sends the same message-it says that the child has permanent traits, and that those traits are being judged.   Carol Dweck explains that some young people believe they simply have a gift that makes them intelligent or talented. Horowitz, Subotnik, & Mathews quote, "they may not put in the work necessary to sustain that given talent or may turn some students who are overly cautious and challenges-avoidant lest they make mistakes and no longer merit the label"  (Horowitz, Subotnik, &Mathews, 2009 p.xii).

Students need to be continually observed and evaluated through a lens of potential and possibilities. Educators must learn to recognize sparks and provide appropriate challenges.  Children should have access to challenging instructions whenever they need it, and at every grade level, in every content area.   Wherever students are being educated, utilizing differentiation, and responsive teaching strategies should be in place as a range of background knowledge, opportunities and abilities.

Mindset Philosophy in the Classroom

Reflect on the Gifted and Talented  philosophy  in your own classroom, If you do not have  a philosophy, consider building one that includes the following:

  • A conception of giftedness that emphasizes potential and possibilities
  • Curriculum development that embeds pre-assessment and formative assessment
  •  Practices and strategies that develop and observe talent/potential including critical and creative thinking
  • Identification process for recognition of potential- that are inclusive.
  • Data should be collected on all students
  • Recognition of what students need, and how these needs will be responded to both instructionally and social-emotionally
  • Differentiated  and responsive instruction- that always allows for the possibility of enrichment.
  •  Topic and content acceleration for all students.

Mindset Philosophy in the School

The goal of every school or district is to to develop an instructional philosophy that addresses the needs of our most advanced learners, at the same time allowing access to instruction for all learners.                                                     

A philosophy of gifted education in a school or district that has adopted a growth mindset might sound like this:

  • Curriculum that embeds strategies that will develop potential
  •  Allow for development of talent
  •  Infuse 21st-century learning skills
  • Nurture creative and critical cognitive abilities in all students;
  • Access to enriched and accelerated instructional opportunities
  • Instruction that is responsive to the needs of all students
  • Educators who have adopted a belief system where they embrace a growth mindset

Additional chapters not being covered are Chapter 8- that reviews some ways to help students adopt a growth mindset.  Chapter 9- reviews some ways that our school staff can maintain a growth mindset and school culture.

 

 

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Plan for Parents

Another stop along the path to a growth mindset school culture is to develop a plan for sharing information about the malleability of the mind with parents. It is important to get parents educated so that the children can hear a consistent message at home and school.

Parents often struggle with the nature/nurture debate and can contribute a child's success or lack of success to genetics. Adult role models should never blame genetics for perceived capabilities or low expectations.

Building Resilience

Children will eventually try to avoid anything where they are not sure that they will be successful rather then view the situation as challenge to arise to.  Here are some suggestions for building resilience in children

  •  Use growth mindset praise
  •  Model flexibility
  • Adopt a " glass half full" mentality in the home
  • Help children find their niche

How can Parents Communicate to a Growth Mindset Message To Teachers?

  1.  Always start with the positive- Tell the teacher something that your child loves about the class.
  2. Share what brings out the best at home-Include a relationship between resilience, motivation, effort, or other aspects you want addressed. Show how this changes the child's performance.
  3. Share what does not work-
  4. Establish the partnership- Make the teacher part of the plan of action that incorporates your beliefs, as well as his oh her practices.

Chapter 6 illustrates the importance of all three groups-students, teachers, and parents-to work together when building a growth mindset culture.  The most important of these is the adopting and of and maintaining of a growth mindset in children.

As you look to plan for next year, what are some ways than you can provide information to parents about having a growth mindset at home?  How can you  continue to build your mindset skills as a teacher in the classroom?

Chapter 7, will discuss if gifted education and a growth mindset belief can coexist?

 

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Thoreau, the transcendentalist author, must have known something about the life of a teacher.  He said "I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust... am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves ... for weeks and months, aye, and years almost together.  I know not what manner of stuff they are of -- sitting there now at three o'clock in the afternoon." Indeed the teaching profession can become, at times, quite solitary.  With only the comfort of a stack of papers needing grading, there arises a need for a more human connection.  Tragically, some teachers prefer to remain in their own classroom while as Mary Oliver reminds us "There is, all around us, this country of original fire."  Taking a walk through the classrooms of any school will reveal a wealth of experience.  Teachers taking walks have the potential to benefit from a formative experience as it can be used to generate new ideas. That is, if the walk causes the participant to become reflective on his or her own practice. In the webinar below, Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart discuss their book Formative Classroom Walkthroughs: How Principals and Teachers Collaborate to Raise Student Achievement.  In it, they share ways in which classroom walkthroughs can be used to reflect and improve teacher practice in an attempt to increase student achievement.  If that is the potential outcome, it is indeed worth taking a walk.

 

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Keeping learning alive and classroom management in tact through the end of the school year is, of course, our number one priority as educators in the spring.

Six important end-of-the-year considerations outside of classroom duties:

Though the protocol is slightly different in each school, the following are items to be aware of as you wrap up the year.  Ask your mentor, team leader or department head how you can assist with this task.

  1.  Book Inventory – Check to see what books need to be counted.
  1. Cleaning – Wipe down countertops, desks and chairs, then stack the furniture as the custodian directs.
  1. Summer Building Schedule - Ask for the summer building schedule and when/if you will have access to your room.
  1. Grades- Check to see if the last quarter grades are dealt with differently.
  1. Student Files– Find out what needs to be filed.
  1. Checklist - You may have already received a "year-end checklist" from your office. If not, it will be coming soon.  Start completing an item a day to ease the stress of the last week.  You'll be glad you did.

Don't hesitate to ask for help and clarification. Knowing the information beforehand can help you prepare well and avoid potentially frustrating and time-consuming surprises.

The last day of contract:   ZIP up your bags and ZOOM home.

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