Never Mind the Trivialities, Just Reward!

Sometimes I get caught up in the minutae of how I am going to roll out a new classroom student recognition idea. There’s a great program out called Class Dojo and it works really well if you have a plan and you’ve practiced a lot with it. Otherwise, it’s sort of like heading out on vacation in a Ford up on blocks … you don’t go anywhere. How do you get that experience to make it work? I say, jump in and try it. Kids thrive on recognition. For lack of a better analogy, it’s like a pat on the head for them. If you wait until your system is perfect and you’ve spent $1,000’s of dollars on prizes at Oriental Trading Company, you’re going to miss countless opportunities to validate the kids through rewards.

Continue reading Never Mind the Trivialities, Just Reward!

Tips for Staying Awake During Long Hauls

There are many trucking companies hiring good, safe drivers — so make sure you know how to stay safe while driving on the road. Some experienced truckers are keen to share their tips for traveling those thousands of miles.

Cat-nap before getting on the road. A short 30-minute nap right before heading out can do wonders for your energy level.

Eat a healthy meal. Many truckers go with quick and easy food but these meals often lead to energy buzzes that result in energy crashes, which you don’t want. Try to eat healthy while on the road.

Take your vitamins. They will not only help you have more energy; they will also keep you healthy.

Move when you get tired. Take a five-minute stop and stretch your legs, do five to 10 minutes of cardio, and get some fresh air.

Crank up the volume. Turn on the radio and sing your lungs out. The loud music and singing will keep you engaged.  Don’t worry, no one else will be able to hear you!

Keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeine. Dehydration will lead to exhaustion as your body wants to shut down and conserve energy. Caffeine will only provide a temporary boost. Stick to water and juices.

These are just a few simple ways truckers have found to help them stay safe.

What You Should do in the Morning

imageEvery class is different in the morning, even when the daily schedule is the same. While teachers and classes may vary, the needs of schoolchildren are the same. Over time I have found that in the morning you should:

Take attendance. If you don’t the secretary gets annoyed. Plus, it’s how we get paid.

Greet as many kids as you can with a kind smile that says, “I’m glad you are here and that I have a chance to be your teacher. If you miss a few kids, make sure they at least hear you greet a student. This lowers their affective filter and tells them you’re not in a bad mood.

Preview the day. Most teachers do this on the board but I’ve found a pep talk about the day gets the kids more dialed in. Continue reading What You Should do in the Morning

The Benefits of Becoming an Owner-Operator

While not everyone may have what it takes to become their own boss, creative, resourceful, and persistent individuals can make a comfortable living becoming an owner-operator of their own company. If you are considering going into business for yourself, here are four advantages of being your own boss in the trucking industry.

Flexible Hours

 One of the biggest appeals of working for yourself is the ability to set your own hours. With that said, if you work inconsistently and fail to commit to meet deadlines and appointments, your business could fall flat. Be realistic about your schedule and don’t give yourself too many sick days or vacation time. Truckers have different schedules than most other workers, so you’ll need to evaluate your own needs.

Greater Control

 As your own boss, you’ll have the freedom to implement your own decisions that determine the future success of your company. As an employee, you can only exercise control within the parameters of your title. As an owner-operator, you decide what jobs you take.

Doing What You Love

 Becoming an owner-operator permits you to turn your passion into a livelihood. You’ll also enjoy a greater sense of satisfaction operating your own business. If you consistently work well and meet your client’s expectations, the sky is your only limit.

Developing Positive Habits

 When you’re relying only on yourself to run an entire company and make the shots, you’ll quickly develop a strong work ethic as every problem or success falls on your shoulders alone. Folks who run their own business develop positive characteristics including frugality, punctuality, loyalty, specialized skills, and resilience.

The Enigma of Setting Up Desks

Every new year teachers ask themselves “How should I put the chairs?” I know this because I have been a teacher for 13 years and I have seen the amazing difference desk placement and patterns can make in the classroom. I think what you decide to do depends a lot on what your goals are with the given group you have. And finally, the way you teach is very important to how you set the desks up.

Pair Share

If you look into my posts here on EDI and the CFU used in that teaching method you will see that pair share is frequently mentioned. There is a reason for this, I use it all the time. Often times kids can clarify new ideas to each other better than I can in my lesson. For this reason, it is important to me to put desks close enough so that they can engage in pair share. I used to think this could only happen with two desks connected at a time. Later, I tried it with 4 desks in a group. Pair share was not always happening in either of these groupings so I tried rows. These rows were just as conducive to pair share as the 2 by 2 setting. My conclusions? As long as students know who their assigned partner is, the desk arrangement matters little.

Behavior

I used to think rows were the worst arrangement for behavior but the last two years have taught me differently. My conclusion is to try rows this year and make observations about it. Students don’t have a small ecosystem, like a group of 5-6, where they can be distracted. I know it sounds old fashioned but I have tried all the newfangled ways from the modern books. They work ok but just about as good as rows.

Accessibility

I could write on and on about this. I think it is pretty self explanatory what it means. My random non-volunteer calling system keeps them on their toes. At the same time, I value a setup that allows me to get across the room easily from any place. The kids learn quickly that I can get to them and there is less off-task time. However this is achieved is not important so play around with that axiom.

My conclusion:

As many as there are ways to decorate your living room, so are there ways to arrange the desks in your classroom. The specifics are up to you. I value: access to pair share and teacher access to get across the room quickly. Of course there are individual concerns but for me and my year, these are what’s most important.

What Should we Test in Public Education?

There’s been a lot of talk this past year about standardized testing in public education. To get a teaching degree requires a lot of discussion on this. There are many points being made on the internet and in books about how standardized tests are not the best assessment of the quality of schools. So what should we test in public education? How about: practical job skills, traditional academic skills, and citizenship? To me, these are three great targets to start with.

Practical job skills are missing in our k12 system now. There are some classes in high schools across the country that attempt this but it should have precedence over all else if we are to prepare our students for a rough economy. Think tanks, collaboration, parent groups, and administration need to come together and brainstorm on this sort of curriculum. Teaching online is proving to be one innovative method toward this. It will have to be a malleable framework since the marketplace changes year to year and sometimes even sooner. One question these think tanks might address is this: “What skills have been universal through the decades in productivity at work.” I think this is the #1 Topic “A” priority item we should address as we reform public education. Teaching to a test gets very few people hired after graduation.

Traditional academic skills should still have priority as well. Language arts and math and crucial to surviving and thriving at work. We should keep the standards and standardized test models and use them but at a second priority. As it has been, the standardized test has been given more attention and focus than it merits, in my opinion. It does however give us a measuring stick that can be useful in planning classroom goals and lessons. This should be woven into the practical job skills aforementioned.

Finally, students need to be taught citizenship. As our system goes through the major changes it is going through now in attempt to escape the recession, our students should be prepared to make their contribution to keep the country strong. There is much material out there on teaching citizenship and behavior skills. This should be sorted through and a new “curriculum” of citizenship should be created. Tests of citizenship would do well to model what good citizens do in America. Very soon, our students will be the citizens of America and the world. How will they be prepared if we don’t guide them with our public schools.

To conclude, I do agree with many out there saying standardized testing is not the answer. At the same time, I feel it may be the answer if the test is based on the right priorities. If we focus on the practical first, we will be doing our students and country a much better service as public educators. Just like the road showing how to be a teacher, every child should have a clear path whatever she/he wants to be.

Student-Tracked WPM in Reading Passages

126_0558There are many things we can do with a passage of text. The “cold read” can be used as a time for the kids to read and measure their words per minute (WPM). This helps motivate and improves fluency.

The process is fairly simple. You just have the kids run their finger along the text and you time them for one minute. When they stop, they go back and count the number of words they read. If you have an AVID folder or other organized area dedicated to keeping track, they write the date and their WPM for that day.

After doing this a few days, the kids can set realistic goals to improve their fluency. I was shown how to do this by my Assistant Principal and it went very well. I will report in after a few weeks whether it worked and anything I learn about using ths method.

What do you think about teaching kids to measure their own WPM? 

A Flight Simulator, a Briar Patch to get our Kids Ready

brerrabit3The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC Practice Test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s too bad there is no way to download it in case they ever upgrade or otherwise choose to take it down. I still have all my material the cde put out for the “1997 standards,” or so they are now called. It comes in handy sometimes. But this is more valuable than any of that. It gives the child a chance to click around within the framework and interface of the common core test that will shine before all students’ faces in April/May. If you don’t use this, make sure your test prep includes something like the interface they will be in. Remember Brer Rabbit when he got caught? He cried and cried for them not to throw him into a briar patch. When he escaped, he yelled “I was born in a briar patch!” laughing his way out of sight. We need to get our kids exposed to the common core test. Of course, daily instruction in the standards is the most crucial thing but after that, we need a flight simulator, a briar patch to get our kids ready for success.

Focus Times

IMG_3685What if you could achieve more in less time? Most people would be interested I think. You can’t take away time from your day but focusing can help you supercharge the minutes that you have, without burning out your students. If a doctor says you are Vitamin deficient you are going to ask which vitamin? This is so you can supplement that shortage to bring it back to par. You may be getting some vitamin D, for example, but not enough to meet your body’s demands. In that case, you would focus on Vitamin D supplement to your diet or pills. It’s similar in our classroom planning. Continue reading Focus Times

President Obama Signs Education Law, Leaving ‘No Child’ Behind : The Two-Way : NPR

Was given this link from a co-teacher. I had to post for those interested.

The new law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, changes much about the federal government’s role in education, largely by scaling back Washington’s influence.

Source: President Obama Signs Education Law, Leaving ‘No Child’ Behind : The Two-Way : NPR

My goodness this is some good news! I did not even know this was on the table. I guess I’m a bit jaded of reading education news from Washington. Maybe I better get back into it if stuff like this is happening! This is huge. My guess is change will be slowwww as always. We’ll still be judged by the Smarter Balanced. But at least it’s a ray of hope, a slant of sunshine that we can soon focus on the needs of the future citizens in our classrooms and not strategize 24/7 on how to hurdle the Common Core. For now though, that’s what 2-12 will have to continue to do until someone tells me otherwise. Thanks!