Archive for the ‘Participation’ Category

My Students are Hilarious.

On one of the first few days of school my students wrote out their expectations for how the class would behave in order to get along as a whole. Am I the only one who finds this implied threat hilarious?

Class Expectation

Are Your Class Incentives Kinda Like Airline Rewards? Bleh!

Airline rewards….suck. This is a fact. The reward is usually something like, “buy 32 flights and receive a free 1 way ticket on this weekday in November!” Yet we all know as reasonable adults that we don’t truly need or deserve a reward, it is just an incentive to keep doing something. Students don’t need or deserve rewards either. Does that make me sound mean? Maybe, but it is the truth. As a teacher, keep that crabby ole’ thought in your mind, because the ultimate “reward” for a student is the knowledge gained. I had a college professor who said that “Success is your reward.” A reward has its motivational limits anyway.

However, there are many valuable reasons to give students rewards. I primarily focus on students who need to be encouraged and students who go above and beyond. Students who do what they have to…well, do you get a bonus for doing something (maybe even the bare minimum) you already are required to do? No. This attitude is what keeps rewards fun and special in my mind though.

I also have some principles when it comes to the reward itself….limit the candy. Yes, I do give out candy. Every time a kid gets a tootsie pop though, I think of the 20% of children in the US who are obese and I feel like a bad teacher! I recommend focusing on rewards which are useful or positive for the student. Since candy is such a go-to item and kids love it, here is a list of some other options that can compete.

  • Pencils!
  • Hand held pencil sharpener
  • Stickers
  • Erasers
  • Leadership role in class activity
  • Bonus Points
  • Dismissal from class 2 minutes early
  • Hall Pass
  • Errands (yes, kids love to run errands for you!)
  • Positive notes to parents
  • Late work excuse
  • Praise (so simple, but we forget)

You can also let your student choose the reward received! This also allows you some insight into what they most desire and perhaps why. Here is the ticket I give out:

Thank You for Being Great!


This ticket can be redeemed for one of the below options:

Þ   Email or Letter Home to Your Parents Informing Them of a Job Well Done!

Þ   Late Homework Assignment Taken without Penalty!

Þ   10 Bonus Points Added to a Low Grade!

Þ   Extra Hall Pass when You are in Need!

Your hard work and kindness is always appreciated in this class!

 

Movement for Learning

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. The thing is…it’s true! Once you do something, it goes into your procedural memory and pretty much stays there. Moving around or acting things out ends up being a great way to remember all kinds of things.

That’s why I’d highly encourage you to try and find ways to incorporate movement into the classroom. I know my college professors always told me this, but secretly in my head I was picturing 32 kids running around the room driving me bonkers. Naturally, I didn’t do much movement at all this past year.

However, if you plan out the movement and you keep it focused and short, there shouldn’t be any crazy scenarios like the one that ran through my head. Students can simply stand up, right next to their desks. The movement can only be in their arms. Make it what will work for your non-chaotic classroom.

Pat your head

Here is a nifty example:

Parts of the Friendly Letter with Movements

  1. Heading- pat your head
  2. Greeting- wave
  3. Body- shake your shoulders and body
  4. Closing- stomp your feet
  5. Signature- sign your name in the air

Once students start acting out the information, it really will become knowledge that stays in their heads. Try to think about little ways and also ask your colleagues! A teacher in my department has her students bounce up and down like bunnies when going over why it’s important to stay on topic in your writing- you don’t want to be hopping all over the place like a rabbit with your thoughts.

Remember, the first step to doing something is to visualize it. The same thing can be said for learning!

So…Who Does What?

Happy Small Group

Your students are in pairs. An activity is about to begin. You tell the class, “Okay, choose someone to be the writer and someone to be the speaker.” Bad idea. At this point you probably have a classroom full of partners playing the staring contest. Are you counting on your students in the partnership to have the maturity or take-charge mindset to delegate a role or take a job that is out of their comfort zone?? Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. Let’s go back in time and do this right.

Assign Students with Group/ Partner Roles…the Right Way

  1. Your students are in pairs.
  2. Look at each other. Pick someone to be the duck and someone to be the goose. Done? Okay good.
  3. The duck will be the writer and the goose will be the speaker. Annnnd….go!

Duck and Goose

Why This Works-

  • Deciding to be a duck or goose is easy. It’s arbitrary and meaningless.
  • Later, when it’s task time- there is no awkward dance. Everyone has been assigned a role.
  • This allows some students who would never volunteer themselves for a particular task to get a chance to branch out. It also allows those students who have a tendency to take charge and overshadow their group members to get a smaller role than usual.

No Opt Out

No Opt Out is a technique focused on making sure any student who is unable to answer a question or does not attempt to answer a question still ends up participating.

Visualize your classroom. Things are going reasonably well. Then you ask Hannah what a noun is. She looks at you confused. Her expression seems to convey “Who me?” She looks away passively and says, “I dunno.” You probably waffle between two actions here- force the question again, give it a try! Or you move on to another student and ask the same question again. This is a key moment– students will realize that saying “I dunno.” is the get out of jail free card for classroom discussion. The teacher cannot make you participate. No teacher likes to be Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that is where No Opt Out comes into play.

Ben Stein

bored student

In a No Opt Out Situation…

Teacher- Hannah, what is a noun?

Hannah- I dunno.

Teacher- (turning to another student) Roger, what is a noun?

Roger- a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Teacher- Right. Hannah, what is a noun?

Hannah- a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Notice that the question comes back to Hannah in the end. This is good for students who don’t know the answer, but are trying, perhaps just giving the wrong answer. The teacher is able to get the student to participate, but without the guesswork of, “Is she being defiant? Does she really not know? Am I embarrassing her if I press the question?”

Let’s talk worst case scenarios. Say Roger is no help. He doesn’t answer your question either. Don’t waste a second. Ask the class for a classroom chorale answer or answer it yourself. Then turn back to Hannah or Roger, ask them again. You have just given them the answer so there is very little gray room to sit silently.

As you can see with my fictional models, Hannah and Roger, No Opt Out is simple and empowering. The student ultimately participates, the class learns that no one is off the hook, and the end result always is a student answering a question correctly (which can be a confidence booster!).

Participation

No Opt Out is a technique which can be found in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. For more formats of this technique, read his book! He is the man with the plan, I am simply a follower.

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