Improve Performance by Promoting Self-Advocacy September 23, 2018 11:14

Being one's own advocate is very powerful in a classroom where there at more students than teachers. It's the self-advocate that gets the best education. Having weaknesses is a part of being human, but sharing them with those who are responsible for your education is very powerful. 

Yesterday, a colleague retold a story of one of my students who is in her math class. She asked her students to share information about themselves that would help be a better teacher for them. My little guy quietly pulled her aside and said, "I am not comfortable writing this down now." She reassured him he could take it home and put it in an envelop and bring it in the next day. He asked if he could speak to her outside. "I want you to know that I have a problem with making eye contact with people. I don't want you to think I am not listening, but I am."

When students advocate for themselves they show their teaches that they care. If permitted to try different strategies, students quickly determine their best place to complete work, the best way for them listen to directions, or strategies they have found successful to allow them to write their best compositions. 

Here are a few ways students can advocate for themselves:

  • Share the best place to sit in the class
  • Ask for words to be written on the board when new vocabulary is introduced in a foreign language
  • Question answers are marked wrong on a test or assignment and provide reasons for the answers given
  • Ask for clarification if directions are unclear
  • Ask for clarification if instruction is unclear
  • Ask to take test earlier if teachers of different class have assigned tests on the same day
  • Bring awareness to teachers when too many projects are due on the same day
  • Express learning difficulties and strategies that have been found to be successful

The Question is the Answer September 22, 2018 16:28

What is the answers to school success? Questions

Mind reading is not a class offered in any teacher education courses, however it is the most valuable tool students and teachers have for assuring students are getting the most out of their education. 

Teachers can't really be sure how the students are taking in the information during instruction without asking them questions. But the real secret to effective instruction is not just the teacher's questions, but more importantly, the students' questions. 

Students have the most valuable tools in their toolkit and yet most do not use them. They fear ridicule from peers and teachers.

When students learn the role of questions in how their brains process and retain information, they are more likely to release the negative feelings related to them. Sharing the following with students will facilitate effective questioning:

1. When a concept being taught is confusing, students may experience sudden urges to use the restroom. This could be the result of the job of the amygdala. It is designed to recognize when we feel threatened and sets off a series of chemical changes that will protect us. The primitive response to the fight or flight feeling is the body's intuitive need to eliminate all excess weight to allow for a speedy escape. During "fight or flight" our focus is strictly on self-preservation. The threat presented in the classroom could be, "I am the only one in here who has no clue what's going on."

Before students ask to use the restroom, they need to determine if they really need to visit the restroom or if the instruction is confusing. Nine times out of ten the latter is the reason. Armed with neuroscience information, students become aware that they need to determine what is confusing, raise their hands, and ask for clarification.

2. The reticular activation system is the filter system of the brain. It's job is to filter out unnecessary information. It is also designed to alert the hippocampus to find answers from previously learned material or subconscious information the brain has absorbed. The hippocampus is like Google for our brains. It responds to questions and will search until it finds the answer. If students relax, they allow their brains to find answers they didn't even realize they knew. If they remain stressed, the amygdala will inhibit the access to prior knowledge. (This explains why a student can demonstrate competence during class practice but fails the test). 

3. Addressing the fear of asking questions is of foremost importance before students will be comfortable asking for clarification. The following series of questions has helped me eliminate the fear of asking questions in my classroom. 

"Have you ever been glad a classmate asked a question?" ("Yes.")

"Why were you glad?" ("I had the same question.")

"So, you were glad they asked the question, because it was the same questions you had. Am I correct?" ("Yes.")

"Did you think they were dumb for asking the question?" ("No.")

"Why?"  ("It was the same question I had.") ("I didn't even think of asking that question, but it helped me.")

"So why would you think they would think you are dumb if you ask a question?"

"Teachers don't know what you don't know. They want to teach you what you don't know, but they can't read minds. They don't want to teach you what you know already because that would be boring. They want to teach you what you don't know. So how will they know what you don't know?" I usually have to repeat this a couple of times.

"If I am doing instruction and I am not clear, I need to know where you need me to say things differently so you can be successful with the work you are going to do. If you go to "lala land" or the bathroom, then go home and ask your mom for help, who is going to know what you don't know?" 

"There are many ways of offering instruction on any concept. If you are confused and let me know, I will try showing it to you in different ways until it makes sense to you. Then I will learn how to share new ideas in the future and make it easier for you to understand new concepts quickly."

"Do you want to be confused and have to use the restroom, or do you want to learn new concepts quickly?" (They usually choose the latter.)

"What do you need to do to make that happen?" ("Ask questions.")

Parents can adapt this dialogue to help their children become the question askers in the class. 

4. Students need to prepared for future teachers who will not respond positively to their questions. Offering them responses that will support their unique needs is necessary to have them continue asking questions in the future. 

Demonstrating how to ask effective questions will support children as they matriculate. Saying, "I don't get it," will irritate teachers. Asking, "What does the would exponent mean in question number five?" is specific and shows the student has identified exactly what they need to know to successfully complete the work.

My next blog will go deeper into countering negative responses and how to ask effective questions.  

Scheduling Chart August 01, 2018 16:00

This model of a scheduling chart allows children to manipulate the pieces and offers flexibility. It allows for easy changes should the child determine a different order would offer better results. The setup requires minimal time, but the benefits are amazing.

Teaching Time Management Saves Time August 01, 2018 13:26

School has either started or about to start. This is the perfect time to do scheduling with your children. Scheduling before school resumes helps to make life run smoothly once hectic schedules begin. 

The first place to start is knowing how much time different activities take to complete. Making a game for determining how much time is taken tying shoes, brushing teeth, combing hair, and getting dressed helps children grasp the concept of elapsed time. These are huge time eaters that children don't consider when preparing to leave for school in the morning. 

Knowing how much time is necessary to get from one location to another will also reduce early morning stress. Playing the time guessing game while traveling to different locations will support children and give real life meaning to elapsed time. When a teacher says, "You have five more minutes to complete this task," children who have played elapsed time games will have a better grasp of what five minutes feels like to them. 

Decide on a location to keep backpacks and school materials. If they are kept in the same place, preferably close to the exit, children won't waste mornings looking for them. 

Prominently displayed visual schedules are important when eliminating poor planning. Planning activities each Sunday sets the tone for a well organized week. It is an activity my daughter does with her family each weekend. They coordinate drop-offs and pick-ups so the children always know who is going to be picking them up each day. The children decide when they will be doing their chores, homework, baths, TV time, or play time. They also record their sports and extra-curricular activities.

My daughter created a 18" X  24" schedule for my grandson. She made puzzle like pieces out of laminated paper for each of his activities and responsibilities. These pieces represented the exact time he predicted each activity would take. A thirty minute activity was twice the length of a fifteen minute activity. Velcro strips were placed on the board and on each of the activity pieces. She decided where her non-negotiable scheduled items such as dinner and bedtime would be placed. Then my grandson placed the pieces that were expressly his responsibility.

As the developer of the Homework Solutions method and promoter of Proper Prior Planning to Prevent a Poor Performance, I was thrilled as I watched and listened to him talk his way through the process. "I could watch a little TV right after school, but I probably would watch too long, so I think I will do my chores first, because I have had enough of school work right after school and don't want to do homework until later." He verbalized his reasons for each of his placements. It was clear that he had learned from previous unsuccessful schedules.

The initial process required my daughter's assistance with placement by offering him some scenarios that might occur. He made the decisions and at the end of each day she asked him how he felt about his scheduling. If he didn't feel that day's schedule was effective, he was free to make necessary changes he felt would be more successful for the next day. Since the pieces were velcro backed, it was easy for him to move pieces around to facilitate better results. She had initially used a laminated schedule and a dry erase pen, but using the pieces that represented time, made a bigger impact on him. 

Sleep is highly under rated. Too much time is lost when children don't get adequate or quality sleep. Tasks take longer to complete, thinking is not clear, and their disposition is adversely impacted by a lack of sleep. Quality sleep is not ten hours of sleep. It is ten hours of sleep that allows children to go deep into sleep and come out to REM sleep several times a night. If children go to sleep too late, they may sleep for ten hours, but never go deep. Getting them adjusted to a regular sleep pattern at least two weeks prior to school resuming will facilitate quality sleep that creates a smooth transition and provides the best performance for students. Click here to read Melissa Olivadoti PhD.'s Sleep in Children: A Practical Guide for Parents for ideas to facilitate quality sleep. It's Free to subscribers today.

Keep an eye on my blog for weekly tips and time saving strategies. 


Signs of Technology Addiction in Children June 20, 2018 08:50

In February of this year, one of my students began displaying very bizarre behavior. He was over emotional, couldn't sit still, was rolling all over the floor, would hide in a corner if things didn't go his way, and couldn't focus on competing one task. When I brought this behavior to his mother’s attention, she shared that he was caught playing Fortnight in the middle of the night. She suggested his behavior was the result of having his computer confiscated and she suspected he was experiencing device withdrawal. This made so much sense, because his behavior seemed much like that of a drug addict on detox.

Technology is here to stay. It has its pros and cons. These little devices that can fit in the palm of our hands can be very helpful in getting us to our destinations. storing valuable data, answering burning questions in a a click, or staying connected to loved ones miles away.

What is the cost of this convenience?

According to the New York Times, "Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children." (click on the title to read the article. 

What can parents do? The New York Times article makes valuable suggestions. Click to read the follow-up article, "How to Cut Children's Screen Time."

I believe devices are our future, so instead of taking them away, I believe parents and teachers need to help students learn to manage them. As suggested in the article, one would start by leading by example. But I think we need to take it further. In my article next week, I will offer helpful strategies designed to empower students to take control of devices before the devices take control of them. 

Summer is the perfect time to teach technology management. Begin today by teaching your children to enjoy the outdoors. Take a nature walk and ask them to find things they have never seen before. That's the first step. 

Pressure Students Feel April 04, 2018 06:54

I speak to high schoolers regularly about the pressures they feel in their freshman year. They are asked to make decisions about what they will become in fifteen years. I feel the pressure they experience to make decisions at the young age of 14 and 15. They walk slumped over, because their backpacks are over laden with books from weighted classes.

In my work, I have heard the cries of sophomores wanting to end the pressure. Some resort to just giving up. "I just can't see doing this for three more years, then four years in college, and how ever many years in graduate school. It's too much!"

What was true for older generations, no longer applies. There are no guarantees given with a college degree. Going to a "good" school doesn't give one the connections it once did. A shift in thinking is in order. 

Please click here and watch this powerful video. It will help students and parents deal with what exits today. Let's relieve them of the pressure they feel. 

Should Every Child Get an Award? April 03, 2018 07:00

Should everyone get an award? This is a controversial topic. Some parents think it’s unfair for some children to get awards, while others don’t. If you ask my mother, she would disagree.

My mother has lived through a depression, a loss of a mother at age 11, and a multiple of life challenges, and she believes these challenges have made her who she is today. “Life does not give you awards. They are earned,” was her reasoning for not letting anyone beat her at board game. “i could let you win to try to make you feel good, but just imagine if I don’t let you win and you legitimately beat me. How will you feel then? I will never let you win at a game! But, if you watch and learn how I play the game, you eventually will beat me."

She was right, but I had no idea how long it would take me to actually achieve that level of skill. I have been playing Scrabble with her since I was ten. My mother is now 93.5 years old and she is still cognitively alert. After many years of perfecting her skills at different games, she continues to be a worthy opponent. I played her regularly growing up and my game gradually improved. With each game, my score would grow, and I began feeling a sense of accomplishment. The gap was slowing closely as the years went by, but at the age of 60, I had yet to beat her.

Many people who have played her in the past were frustrated with her philosophy and felt it was ego driven. But I will tell you, my mother is a tenacity builder. She wanted her children, grand children, and now her great grandchildren to learn how she survived a life filled with many challenges. She never gave up.

In my 62nd year of life and my 52nd year of playing with my mom, I succeeded in beating her by 6 points. I can not explain how elated I was. I posted my victory on Facebook because this was a once in a lifetime event! My mom's response to my post was, "I could be angry that you won and posted it here, but you got good by playing me. You can thank me instead of bragging about it."

Boy was she right. If she hadn't given me challenges every game, I would never have learned how to play. Thank you, Mom.

Even though she can still give me a good game, the margins are increasing between her score and mine in my favor. The wins are not nearly as exciting now, because her memory is slipping. I am so grateful that I beat her when she was at the top of her game.

 When she heard that students were getting trophies just for playing, she asked me, "What is the motivation for trying harder? If I had let you beat me before you had the skills to do so, you would never have beaten me.”

UCI Procrastination Challenges and Solutions March 28, 2018 17:04

Reasons & Solutions For Procrastination

Student Fear Everyone Will Discover They Are Not As Smart As Everyone Thinks They Are

Solution: Help them recognize that smartness does not mean everything will come easily. Clarify that one can be very talented in math, but not in language arts. Students benefit from an introduction into how the brain processes and accesses knowledge, so they feel more comfortable not having everything be easy. They need a safety net of reasons they might not know something. (examples provided below)


Students Fear Asking Questions for Clarification

Solution: Dispel the myth around questions and clarify that teachers are not mind readers, so we don't know what they know already or what they don't know. Explain that we may think our directions are clear, but until someone asks a questions we aren't aware we aren't clear. It is through their questions that we realize what they need in order to be successful. We can assume a lot, but we don't want to guess. Their questions take the guess work out of the equation for the teacher.

Solution: Demystify the attitudes around questioning. For further information on how to get them over the fear of asking questions, refer to my ebook. Overcoming the Fear of Asking Questions available in my on-line store.

Solution: Offer an Escape Net for not knowing. There are several reasons students will not know how to do something. Some of these reasons are:

  1. Their dendrites around the information have pruned.
  2. Their previous teacher did not teach the concept.
  3. They were in the bathroom, out ill, or on vacation the day the concept was taught.
  4. Their amygdala was set off by their stress response of the feeling of not knowing.

They Feel They Can't Make Mistakes

Solution: Help them see the value in making mistakes and dispel the myth that smart people don't make them. Help them develop the understanding that mistakes don't mean you are dumb. They are a sign one needs to try something different until success is achieved.

Share the Edison Ethic: He didn't feel he failed 999,999 times when searching for how to make a light bulb work. He said he just found all the ways it didn't work. He never gave up until he found the one that did work.

Their Stress Response Blocked Memory and is a Huge Time Waster

Solution: Offering neuroscience about the brain’s response to stress and offer strategies for settling the amygdala.

The Teacher's Due Dates Don't Impact Students

Solution: Use backwards planning with students so they can take into consideration their unique needs and make individual accommodations with the teacher's due dates in mind.

Students Have Multiple Assignments From Different Teachers

Solution: Scheduling all assignments in one agenda can help students see everything they have to juggle. If they have backwards planned the first day assignments are given, they can alert teachers to what their colleagues are also assigning. Most teachers don't have time to consult each other, so putting the student in the driver's seat allows them to take ownership of this responsibility. My third graders learn to do this as soon as we increase the number of assignments they handle each night.

They can also advocate for themselves by asking one teacher to move the date of a test one day earlier or one day later. Having three tests or multiple projects assigned on the same day in middle school is unreasonable and setting students up for failure.

Some Students Work Best Under Pressure

Solution: When students do planning, they can guarantee they can meet a deadline by creating artificial deadlines that allow for any interferences that might get in their way of being on time.

Some Students Are in a Power Struggle With Adults

Solution: When students  prescribe a plan of how they will execute the assignment, they are more inclined to be successful because they don't want their plan to fail. When they control their day, week, and month, they are more likely to meet deadlines. Each situation is unique. I have addressed this issue in my book Homework Solutions: A Parent's Guide and Homework Solutions: A Teacher's Guide, both available in my online store.

One Example:

Will was a student who was turning in his assignments. After three months of weekly interventions which included conferences with his mom, his teacher asked me for some help. The following is a dialogue pattern that teachers will find helpful in getting to the core of the student's challenge and how to facilitate a student prescribing a change in behavior that will stick:

"Will, I understand you haven't been successful turning in your homework. What is getting in your way?"

"I don't know." (This is a common response. For Will, it usually got him out of the conference, because his teacher and parent would tell him, and then he go out and play).

"I do believe you know. We can sit here through recess until you think of what is preventing you from getting your work done and turned in on time. Your friends are playing basketball, and you will be here with me until you figure it out. We can resume this session during lunch and even after school if need be. So what do you need to change in order to get your work completed."

“I start playing basketball at home, and before I know, it is it dark. Then I have to come in, have dinner, and then there isn't any time to do homework."

"I'm glad you know the cause. That is 100% of the solution. Now what are you going to do to change that?"

"I don't know." (Again, he was awaiting the solution that he had no intention of doing, but it would get me off his back).

"Well, you are going to come up with at least one thing you can do that will help you get your work completed and turned in on time. Or, you can stay here with me until you figure that out."

Within seconds he responded, ”I think I just need a sign that says, 'Do It Now!' and I'll put it above my desk to remind me."

"Well, that is not as creative as the ideas your mom or teacher have come up with, so we will have to see if it works. If you are not successful, and this idea doesn't work, I will be meeting with you again each recess until you find one that works. It could use up all your recesses."

"It will work!"

"We'll see."     

You'll notice I didn't get too excited about his idea. If I had, then I would have bought-in to his idea. Stubborn children want to give it to adults, so the way to do that is to show us we are wrong.

It was not surprising to me that he never forgot his homework the rest of the year, or the next year. I would touch base with him while he still attended our school and in eighth grade, he said, "The sign still works."  At his high school graduation, he told me he was taking it to Cornell in the fall.

It didn't matter what his idea was. He could have said he was going to tie his shoes together until he was done. The reason it worked was he couldn't let his idea fail.

We often make the mistake of telling instead of asking. Power seekers make great company owners. We just need to create situations where they have choices that are within our parameters.                           

They Don't Read the Directions Correctly

Solution: Reading the questions "as if" they are going to start the assignment as soon as it is assigned and asking questions about what is unclear is a powerful solution. Instead of telling them what to do, I ask them to read the directions and ask me what is unclear. I convince them I am not a mindreader and I do not want to teach them what they know already, I want to teach them what they don’t know. If I teach them what they know it will be boring. Each year I get different questions on the same assignment. The students come in with different prior knowledge and their skills weaknesses vary year to year. My directions are general in nature unless I have a specific skill I expect to be achieved through the assignment.


Solution: Beginning instruction by having the students read the directions and determine what they do not know, then having them share what is unclear is a powerful teaching strategy that engages students. Once they ask the question, they want the answer, so they listen carefully. This results in students remembering the concept when they get home. My instruction includes strategies for figuring out how to solve that challenge should they forget how to do it when they get home.

Students Lack Problem Solving and Forecasting Strategies

Solution: By discussing challenges and their solutions with each pre-questioning session and the following day after the assignment has been attempted, students are able to share what they experienced and how they solved them. As a class, they are learning how to predict possible challenges and have a toolkit of solutions. Using a self-evaluation after each homework assignment, test, presentation, and project, students will learn how to be more efficient and identify what they need to achieve their best.

Dendrites prune, which will make the long term memory a bit harder to access at first. They need strategies for accessing information.  (This will be a topic of an upcoming blog post).

Engaging Apathetic Students March 17, 2018 08:58

Each time I present at conferences I get new questions on the same topic. The following are some new questions attendees asked:

How can I engage students who are capable but apathetic?

Apathy can have many origins.  What might appear as apathy, might be insecurity and a fear of failure. It might be a feeling of "been there done that, tell me something new." Sleep deprivation could be another. A student might lack an awareness of the importance of learning a subject that is not interesting to them.

Or, the student might have an incorrect definition of bored. When we help a student identify the reason behind the feeling, it often opens doors to engagement. The following is a discussion I had with one of my students regarding his lack of enthusiasm for a language arts activity we were doing. Nick had his head on the desk and wasn't getting started with his brainstorming. When asked what was getting in the way of getting started, he stated, "Writing is boring."

"Oh, I see. Please share with me a subject that is not boring for you."



"I really like it."

"Why do you really like it?"

"Because it is easy." (this is the typical response to this questioning)


"So what I am hearing is you like math because it is easy, could it be the writing process is something boring because it is hard for you?"


"Please share the hard parts of writing? Is it that you don't have any ideas? Is it hard to get them on paper? Is there anything that would make it easier?"

He thought for a few minutes, "I can get ideas, but I don't know how to put them together. Then when I go to write them down, I forget half of them, because it is so hard to write fast enough. My mom said I should be able to write better, because I am so smart, but It's harder when I am tired.”

“How about I show you some ways to organize your ideas and different strategies to make it easier for you. One thing you need to be aware of is you are working with “puppy dog paws.” Like a puppy that is going to grow into a big dog, you, too, will grow into your hands when you reach middle school and the writing will come easier for you. Until then, there are some things you can try to help you get your ideas out of your head and onto the paper. Would you like me to talk to your mom about the sleeping situation?”


What looked like apathy and what was called boredom was a few challenges he needed to work through. He needed strategies for organizing his ideas. He needed opportunities to try different strategies to make the writing easier. He also decided to try recording his ideas into a recorder, so he could then write it down by listening to it. He found standing up and writing helped him. He later admitted that he was afraid of the dark and wanted to sleep in his brother's room. Once his father agreed to that, Nick seemed to find writing much easier. Writing still wasn't his favorite subject, but he now realizes that if something is hard, he just needs to ask for support.

I did have to speak to his parents about the expectations for perfection in all academic areas. Sharing the neuroscience behind stress and its impact on learning, seemed to be enough to have them take the pressure off of Nick.

Relieving him of that pressure, actually helped him shift his attitude when he began feeling what he used to describe as boring, and is now comfortable admitting for support when it is "hard."

“One can take a horse to water, but one can't make them drink. We can offer an education to a student but we can't make them become interested. They have to find something in it for themselves.” Author Unknown

In my next post, I will discuss how we can encourage them to drink.



Begin A New Year of Growth December 26, 2017 17:04

The last 23 of my 45 years as an educator has been spent focusing on growth instead of grades. I have to say that I received far more success with students once I made this shift.

Since grades are a reality, refraining them is essential for maximizing success. Because of parental pressure, it is imperative that we help parents focus on growth instead of on the "A."

Grades offer great feedback, but only if students have time to reflect on the their results. Whether the results are positive or negative, time needs to be set aside for students to evaluate the effectiveness of their preparation or the methods of study they employed. This must be followed by a description of what the students will do in the future to either replicate the positive results or improve the negative ones. 

The following are ways to focus on a growth mindset:

    • Recognize hard work and perseverance instead of "natural" gifts and talents.
    • Normalize mistakes and model ways to learn from them.
    • Encourage observable changes in behavior to change results.
    • Reveal the "hidden stories" of success. For example, how much practice it takes for world class athletes to get to the top of their game.
    • Express pride and praise your student when he/she takes on new challenges.
    • Teach your student about their brain. The brain can continue to grow with exercise. Practice makes the brain stronger. A child’s experiences are key to the development of the brain. Neuroscientists have a phrase to emphasize this: the neurons that fire together wire together.
    • Recognize that a growth mindset is a journey, not a destination.

How Do You Engage Students November 10, 2017 07:13

I recently presented at a conference for the Orange County Gifted Association's Annual Conference. My topic was "Secrets About Teachers Who Engage." Since I always have amazing teachers attending my sessions, I like to access what they have to offer. I don't want to bore them with information they already have, and I like to hear some new ideas myself. I want to thank those who shared with the group. The following were recommendations suggested by the attendees:

  1. Incorporate music and videos
  2. Share personal experience
  3. Seesaw
  4. Pear Deck: An app
  5. Uchole Brain Teaching
  6. Allow students to teach
  7. Use guest speakers
  8. Involve art
  9. Songs for Schools
  10. Kahoot
  11. Khan Academy

I have not used any of the above techniques, so I can not attest to their effectiveness, but others felt they were worth mentioning.

Today I'll share a few of the strategies I have found effective in getting every student engaged in answering questions.

1. I use Post-it Notes or little scraps of paper to have students answer questions. I require all students to answer the question, and I wait until all have given a stab at it. Given enough time, students who rarely participate because they are slower processors find they can come up with great ideas. Fast processors find they can generate more indepth ideas if they give themselves a chance to think deeply.

2. Pair share with a twist is a great strategy. Instead of asking students to share their ideas, I ask them to share their partner's idea. The first time this is done, it is difficult for students to remember what the other person said. After instruction in listening strategies, they become more engaged with their classmate's idea.

Stay tuned for more ideas in my next post. 

What Would Your Children Put in Their Bags? August 21, 2017 15:17

My grandson just started second grade. His first homework assignment was to fill a bag with five items that would tell the class something about him. He gave it great thought and placed the following items in his bag: 

  • A medal he earned from swim team that required lots of practice to show improvement
  • A belt that he earned in Tai Kwon Do
  • A medal he earned in diving that only came after many back and belly flops
  • His Par Core Band 
  • A badge he earned in Cub Scouts

I thought he would put in a dinosaur because he used to spend hours playing with them. Each of his choices are centered around something that didn't come as a gift, but instead came only after hard work. His medals weren't the "you tried and so you deserve a medal" kind. They represented a symbol of hard work. Not one of the items were connected to anyone helping him.

There were times when he wanted to quit, because he wasn't making progress. My daughter encouraged him to keep working at it. She retold stories of people who gave up on mountain climbs one foot from the top of the mountain. He heard stories of Michael Jordan, who was told he would never make the high school team, but kept practicing until he did. 

So when we want to step in and help our children do that which they can do for themselves, we need to remember the struggle is what holds the real value. We simply need to coach in strategies that will allow them to experience the joy of the journey and obstacles they overcome. They will come to realize the real joy is in the struggle and not the medal, grade, or award.

Be sure to take time to celebrate every struggle as a means to an end. When they achieve their goal, celebrate the struggle that led to the success. Tap into how the struggle felt and how the achievement feels. Tapping into the emotions will assure them of continuing the work toward future goals.

To Guarantee a Successful Year-Start at the End! August 18, 2017 07:17

It’s a new school year and an opportunity for students to get a fresh start. Now is the time to decide what they want to accomplish this year. 

The best way to have a good year is to start at the end. This may sound odd, but I am a firm believer in creating a clear picture of what one wants to accomplish and the specific reasons as to why. 

I ask students to write what they would like to see on their report cards at the end of the semester. Some of the comments might be, “Susan was an active participant in the class,” or “Jane never gave up and when things got hard, she eagerly asked for support.” I focus on the behaviors they might exhibit rather than on grades.

If students initially focus on the grade, I ask them to define the behaviors or actions to demonstrate in order to achieve the desired grade. It is helpful to coach students with some of the following statements:

To get an “A” I will need to:

  1. Listen intently in class.
  2. Pay attention to what the teacher writes on the board.
  3. Remember to ask for material I miss when I am ill or out of class.
  4. Preview chapters and form questions about what I think I will learn.
  5. Read the questions first on all assignments before reading the material and before the concept is being taught. This will allow me to focus better on the things I need to learn.
  6. Read written work aloud several times to both proofread and check that it makes sense.
  7. Ask for clarification to be sure I understand the teacher’s instructions. 
  8. Make note cards to use for studying and review material regularly.
  9. Ask questions when I am unsure of what the teacher is explaining.
  10. Pay attention to homework assignments when I enter the classroom, so I know what I am expected to complete after school. Plan to get started during recess, if I have a lot to do after school. 
  11. Pre-read homework assignments to see what I do not know and ask questions before I leave class. 
  12. Do nightly homework and turn on time.
  13. Check over graded work and find out why I missed problems.
  14. Have someone quiz me before tests, so I am sure I understand the material.
  15. Use only positive comments when thinking or speaking about my abilities.
  16. When I do not do as well as I expect, I immediately make an appointment with the teacher to ask for strategies to improve. 
  17. Write reasons I made mistakes on my corrected work.
  18. Review all tests for information to check to see if there were possibly errors in correction and to find out what I didn’t know.
  19. {Made a separate item.} When studying for a semester or year exam, I will make sure to determine the correct answers and make note cards for review.
  20. Use the teacher’s office hours to discuss my progress.
  21. Keep a running record of my grades so I know where I stand at all times. 

I ask students to visualize themselves opening their report card at the end of the semester and reading all the wonderful comments and seeing the desired grades. I want them to tap into the wonderful feeling they get when they achieve what they have planned. Tapping into that feeling is a crucial step towards insuring they stay on task. 

Then they are to type up a copy of their goals to review each morning when they are brushing their teeth. It can be posted on the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder of the things they need to do daily to achieve their goals. 

All students can benefit from using the list provided above, however, high school and college students often have to take classes they don’t want to take to meet a school requirement. There has to be a reward in it for them in order to create the desire to make it through the class. I ask them to list three reasons they are taking the class and three ways it benefits them.


I am taking counseling in order to get a clearer picture of what I want to do for a career. Then I will know what classes to take, and understand the way I learn, and school will be easier for me.

I am taking photography to learn new skills because I love taking pictures. It will give me personal satisfaction, and I can learn about career options related to photography. 

I am taking anthropology because I need to improve my grade, and taking it again give me a better chance of getting into a four-year college.

It will also allow me to try out my new study strategies, because I think they will help to improve my grade.

With an image of the end of the semester clearly in their minds, students will find it much easier to achieve their goals. 

A New School Year- A Fresh Start August 09, 2017 08:19

I love the new school year. Well, for at least the first week. My teacher's plan book is filled out for the first week, the room is clean, and I have a new outfit. But then the students arrive. Each year I feel ready for the new group until they enter the classroom. They are carrying new backpacks and new challenges I have never experienced in my 45 years of teaching. But, none the less, I feel ready to tune into their uniqueness, so I can provide the best guidance possible and also see what they have to teach me this year.

I have made it a practice over the last 45 years not to teach summer school. Instead, I trade places with my students and spend time reflecting on what my students taught me. I also use the few months afforded me during the summer to do my own research and read books that I have not had time to read during the hectic school year. Every year, I enter the classroom rejuvenated with a feeling of enthusiasm for what will change as a result of what I learned through my summer studies and from what my students taught me the prior year. I spend a lot of time reviewing the challenges of the prior year and plan for the new year feeling a little more prepared than the year before. You would think I would have nailed it after 45 years in teaching and 22 years in third grade. But, my students always bring new opportunities for me to learn. Like my students, I like getting a fresh new start.

I was asked this summer how I could still have enthusiasm after teaching for so many years. The young man asking the question wondered how I didn't manage to get burned out. Honestly, I wasn't always so enthusiastic. In fact, there was a time 22 years ago when I thought of leaving teaching forever. With my mother's counseling, I revisited my real reason for teaching, and that was enough to consider finding a new school where I could empower students to find the innate ability they possess to achieve their goals and to coach parents in strategies to empower their children. I left the district I was in and found a school that was inline with my vision. Everyday, I remind myself that I am in this job for the kids. My goal is to stay tuned into the needs of each of my children and the unique needs of their parents. Do I always agree with the administration? Not always, but I don't let that define my role at the school.

So, I'm ready. I have my outfit for the first day ready, and I'm refreshed and excited about the 2017-18 school year.


Promoting Kindness in Children July 22, 2017 08:01

The following recommendations were made by the Greater Good Institute for encouraging kindness in children:

The time required for any of these techniques will vary. Try to use one of them at least once per week.


  1. Avoid using external rewards to reinforce altruistic behavior. For instance, you may want to think twice before telling kids that they’ll get a special treat if they share their toys, or promising them extra TV time if they help clean up after dinner. As tempting as it may be to reward kids when they do something kind, that approach can backfire: They may learn that kindness is only worth performing when they’ll be given some kind of prize as a result. Instead, kids should get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward—a view backed up by neuroscience studies showing that pleasure centers of the brain light up when people behave altruistically.
  2. Praise character, not behavior. Research suggests that children are more likely to make kindness a habit if they are praised for being kind people rather than just for doing something kind. For example, saying, “You’re such a helpful person” may be more effective than saying, “That was such a helpful thing to do.” Praising their character encourages children to see kindness as an essential part of who they are and seems to be especially effective around age eight, when children are forming their moral identities.
  3. But criticize behavior, not character. In other words, it’s OK to induce guilt but not shame. Children who feel guilt (“I did a bad thing”) after wrongdoing are more likely to feel remorse and make amends than those who feel shame (“I am a bad person”). Criticizing a behavior conveys that it’s possible for the child to change his or her behavior and make better choices in the future. Such criticism may be especially effective when it also includes positive affirmation (e.g., “You’re a good person, and I know you can do better.”)
  4. Model altruistic behavior. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words when it comes to cultivating altruism. Research shows that when children witness adults behaving altruistically, they are more likely to behave altruistically themselves, regardless of what the adults say to them about the importance of altruism.

You can read more on this topic at:



Summer: A Great Time for Grit Building July 02, 2017 08:58

One of the attributes of truly successful people is they have grit. Grit is the courage and resolve to complete what one has started no matter what obstacles are met. I do not believe grit builders are just born that way. I believe they learn it at a very young age. This summer, I will be sharing different strategies for facilitate grit building. 

Grit building comes from an environment that allows for mistakes and imperfections. It doesn’t expect a perfect product, but celebrates the process a child goes through in completing a goal. It celebrates mistakes as opportunities for change, and it is an optimistic environment where all things are possible.

Working with children over the years, I have come across a lot of parents who do things naturally that we can all learn from to help our children. I want to share the wisdom of a mother I met several years ago whose child clearly possessed grit before he entered school.

I recall observing her son on the Pre-K playground trying to figure out how to put the blocks together in just the right way to create a tunnel through which others could crawl. The tunnel would collapse, but that didn’t stop this little fellow. He tried a different configuration. It didn’t work. He continued working the entire recess. When the bell rang, he begged the teacher to leave the blocks the way they were so he could continue working on his plan.

His teacher shared that it took him two days to finally find the right configuration. She shared how he celebrated quietly with some “Yes, I did it,” hand gestures and promptly called his classmates over to test it out.

 How did he learn this? I was curious, so I asked his mother about the motivational strategies she used to help her son stick with a job until it was successful. She said it simply, “I just always felt he could work things out. A puzzle frustrated him, so I just kept telling him to try something else. I didn’t play into his crying like I have seen other mothers do by showing him how to do it. I just had confidence that he would eventually get it. He didn’t that day or even the next week. I think it was a month later while he was in the playroom, that I finally heard a shout of excitement that indicated he had achieved success at something. When I went to see what the shouting was about, he held up the puzzle and showed me he had done it. I didn’t want to praise the product, but I did want to praise his effort and the fact he didn’t give up, so I asked, 'Aren’t you glad you didn’t give up?' He was definitely glad he didn’t. I think this is why he sticks with a project until he gets it complete. I was not one who tolerated crying. But I did recognize the frustration when it didn’t work. I would tell him, “I get that this is frustrating. Put it away for now and come back to it when you feel like you want to try it again. Crying won’t help put the puzzle together, so go play outside for a while and you can try it later.”

This mother was helping her son develop strong character and at the same time was providing him with strategies for coping with challenges that he will use for his entire life.

It's easier to do things for frustrated children, but that does not build grit. It eventually creates co-dependency. Grit building can begin today, by establishing a mindset reset about our children’s challenges. If we see them as opportunities to try a different way, our children are more likely to develop the girt necessary to experience success in whatever they pursue.

How can you do it today? Try teaching your child a new game. Pick something that would not be easy, but something that the child could get better at with practice. My mother never let us win. We had to win legitimately. I played Scrabble with her for years and it wasn’t until I was 65 that I was able to beat her. I was so proud of that win that I posted my success on Facebook.  Throwing a game so the child can feel good now does not teach grit. Being a gracious looser and learning to try again will help build grit. Offer to share a few strategies, if the child wants it. Giving up is not an option. Extrinsic rewards for the effort a child puts into playing a game or learning a new are not as helpful as praising their effort and the the fact they did not give up. Take time to recognize improvements your child has made and encourage them to keep at it, because practice will improve performance.  



Summer 's Here - Balancing Computer Use June 22, 2017 11:46

Summertime is a great time to teach mindful use of devices. 

Summertime is a great time to teach mindful use of devices. 
Let's help children form wonderful summer memories by teaching them to manage their devices first.

Summer is here and for me it brings a flood of memories of simpler times. There were very few television shows to watch and no computers to distract me. My entertainment was up to me and my friends and our creativity. We didn't have Barbie's dream house, so we had to make a shoe box be a multiple of things to satisfy Barbie's dreams. She didn't have a wardrobe we could buy, so we had to make her clothes. We had phones plugged into the wall, so to talk to our friends without someone listening on the line meant we had to go to their house and talk face to face. The pace was definitely slower and summers were a time for the beach and pool play, being at the park looking for creatures to take home for pets, and playing sports at the local sports park. As I reminisce, I can relive those happy times and experience the same feeling of exhilaration I did 50-60 years ago.

What will our children's memories be of their summers. Will if be hours of computer time, or will it be experiencing nature as I once did.

I am not one who would say, "Remove all computers and make televisions enabled for only one hour a day." Technology has many benefits and is our future. I do believe a gift we can give our children is to learn how to manage the dependency on technology. Taking everything away does not create responsible use, but facilitating responsible use will help them in the future.

Summer is a great time to teach mindful use, self-regulation, and deferred gratification. Allow your children to schedule their days. Their schedules should include the activities that stimulate their brains and bodies such as sports, board games, art, free exploration, reading, or any activity that gets them away from their devices and television. It should also include reasonable amount of tech time. There are many  creative ways of using the computer, such as creating movies or radio programs ,or painting on the computer. There are also some video games that require higher level thinking, but are also designed to keep the users engaged. They produce a dopamine release that creates a feel good affect our children need to learn to manage. During school time, this engagement can interfere with getting work done, so summer is a perfect time for the users to learn to manage that feeling of wanting to play for hours.

Putting your children in the driver’s seat is very effective. I recommend parents share that the goal of the gaming industry is to create a chemical release in the brain that makes the user want to continue playing. In a sense it makes the brain happy. It is up to them to decide if they are going to let the game control them or if they are going to control the game. Asking your children to think of ways to manage device use themselves is very empowering. I have found that students who create the solutions for managing this control are more likely to follow through with them.

Spend time each evening helping them evaluate their plans and asking them to create something different until they find a plan that is workable. Given the summer to develop successful strategies will guarantee your children will become mindful users of their devices and learn to control them independently. It may seem like it takes them a long time to come up with a plan, but the time will be well worth it. The younger they learn to manage themselves the better off they will be later on. Do this now and you won’t have worry about your children missing class when they are away at college because they couldn’t put the game down.

What I've Learned From My Students June 14, 2017 06:59

Two things I have learned: I can't read minds! I am not a magician.

I am entering my 23rd year of teaching third grade. In my 45 year in this profession, I think I have enjoyed what I have learned from my students more than anything. I think the one most important thing I've learned from them and an Ah Ha I would want new teachers to know about is I can't read their minds. 

When I finally realized that I could not predict what my students would glean from my words of wisdom, I became a more effective teacher. It was when I stopped teaching concepts and started answering their questions that real engagement occurred. Yes, the good old Socratic method of teaching. It is by far the most effective way of engaging students I have found to date.

Students today are more self-centered than in the past. The influence of technology has changed the way they think. They want immediate gratification and have little patient for long drawn out instruction. I can't model their games, so I just have to cut to the chase. I begin by sharing with them the following words, "I don't know what you don't know. I want to know what you don't know, because I don't want to teach you what you know already because that would not be interesting. I tried taking mind reading classes and have been hugely unsuccessful. So, since I don't know what you don't know by looking at you, how am I going to know?" Of course, it takes them a few minutes to process what I have said, so I often repeat it. It gets a chuckle and then one student raises his/her hand and answers, "If we tell you?" Then that follows with how can you tell me what you don't know? The obvious answer is by asking questions. 

Why does this method engage so beautifully? Think about our engagement when we ask someone a question. We want to hear the answer. 

The one challenge with this method was getting students to recognize the value of listening to their classmates questions. So, I ask them, "Whose question is more important than your own? It is your classmates. They are going to ask something that you didn't even think of asking and alert you to something you didn't realize you needed to ask. When others ask questions, think to yourself, 'Can I answer that?'" 

I love this method of instruction. It puts the students in the driver's seat and allows for natural differentiation of instruction. I have been teaching the curriculum for 22 years and I always get questions I have never heard before. It really takes the boredom out of teaching for me. 

Boredom- What Does it Mean? May 16, 2017 21:07


This one word can get a ground swell going in no time flat. One parent can complain to another that their child is bored in math class and the rest become concerned. Then they ask their child, "Are you bored in math?" Of course, the answer is going to be yes in most cases. This then feeds the fears that boredom is a sign schools are not challenging their chldren. The fact is, a challenging program can feel like boredom to a child who doesnt' understand the definition of boredom. 

When asked what they felt was boring, each student had a different definition. The following are a few of things that my students defined as boring: not having video games to play, having to wait for parents completing tasks, eating alone, not having television to watch, hard math problems, having to write in class, sitting for too long, listening to someone else talk, learning something I learned before, when I am tired, and when I have read every book there is to read in my house and on the internet.

Children and parents are working with two different definitions. The children are defining a feeling connected with nothing to entertain them. Parents are responding to what they think is programing that is not stimulating. 

What are we really looking when it comes to boredom? It's more a lack of interest. Who's responsibility is it to create interest. One can lead a horse to water, but can not make them drink. Teachers can provide a stimulating program and high interest lessons, but we can't create interest on the part of the student. That is solely their responsibility. Recognizing what bored feels like to the student and accepting responsibility for changing the feeling will stop the use of this word. 

When students use this word to define how they are feeling, it is helpful for parents to clarify what their children why. The following is an example of how to help students idenitfy what they really mean by boring.

Teacher: "Why are you not completing your written assignments,

John: "I'm bored with writing."

Teacher: Is there a subject you don't find boring?"

John: "I love math."

Teacher: "Why don't you find math boring?

John: "Because it is fun."

Teacher: "Is it fun becasue it comes easily to you?"

John: "Yes!"

Teacher: "So, is writing boring because it is hard?"

John: "Yes."

Teacher: "What I am hearing is when work is hard, you are calling the feeling you are experiencing as boring, but wouldn't be clearer if you said it was hard?"

John: "Yes."

Teacher: "When you have that feeling in the future, instead of going off into lala land or talking to your classmates, come to me and tell me you are stuck, and I can help you figure out ways to make writing easier for you."



Even the Worst Teachers Can Offer Valuable Lessons May 16, 2017 21:02

This sounds wrong. How can a terrible teacher be the best teacher for a child? 

As my children traveled the educational highway, they hit many potholes along the way. Some of these obstacles were the teachers they encountered. I was like any parent and wanted great teachers for my children. They lucked out most years with teachers who loved what they did, but there were a few teachers who clearly had chosen teaching for the summers off. 

Like any mama bear, I wanted to protect my children from teachers who treated students poorly. Since my policy was never to go to battle for my childrenI did what a friend said she would do I armed them for battle by teaching them how to diffuse and process comments that were less than supportive.  What I discovered along the path was poor teachers would offer me opportunities to teach my children how to talk to and deal with people who didn't appear to care about them nor their education. I now realize these teachers were offering my children opportunities to learn life skills that would take them far in their secondary education and beyond. The skills they learned by interacting with difficult people has served them well in their careers. 

As a student educational coach, I have come across students who have also formed negative self-images because of an unkind comment from a teacher. 

One middle school girl came to me for tutoring in math. As a tutor, I don't do the instruction. I coach children how to ask questions of their teachers which helps the teacher become more effective. It also empowers students to get what they need from their instructors. This method ultimately ends the need for tutoring. 

As I worked with this twelve year old (let's call her Svenia), I discovered her questions indicated how bright she was. I asked her, "When did you decide you weren't smart in math?"

This question sparked a memory that brought tears to her eyes. She shared that the question caused her to see a green eyed monster and heard her say, "You are so smart in everything else, how can you be so dumb in math?" 

After much questioning, we were able to determine that it was possible for the teacher to have said that she found it funny that math was so hard for Svenia. This middle schooler had added her own interpretation of this comment because she found math to be her only challenging subject in school. She didn't realize that although math was not her strongest subject, it didn't mean she was dumb. She spent years suffering with this idea, which translated into her giving up any time there was a challenge. 

At the time, her mother just got mad and blamed the teacher for not understanding her daughter. This teacher had offered Svenia a great opportunity had her mother capitalized upon it. 

When Svenia first complained that she felt stupid in math, her mother could have asked a few questions: Why do you feel that way? Did something happen to make you feel that way? 

Svenia needed reassurance that a struggle did not indicate she was dumb. She never learned that a struggle means one needs to ask some questions and persevere

When I shared this story with another mother, she said, "Well, there are some teachers who judge children and don't like it when they ask questions. And when they do, they get criticized for it and are told they aren't smart enough."

My daughters had a few of those types of teachers. They discovered two of them in middle school and a few in high school and a lot of them in college.

The first experience my daughter had was in middle school math. She worked very hard to do well in math. She found her questions resulted in getting one-to-one instruction from previous teachers.

In seventh grade she came across one of 'those' teachers who didn't seem to like children. He had formerly been a high school math teacher. He didn't have time to deal with questions in the short time he had the students. However, my daughter knew the power of asking questions, because they had been so powerful in the past. She was a little frustrated because this teacher had made students feel stupid when they asked questions. Because she didn't know how to deal with this type of teacher, we role played how she could ask for support. We practiced scenarios she might encounter, until she felt comfortable asking him for support. She asked for a conference with him during lunch. He surprising agreed to it, but he stipulated she would need to make it fast. 

My daughter shared the following with him"I know it can be frustrating answering questions when you have so much to teach. I am not sure why I don't know this one step, but I really want to do well in this class, and I'm afraid if I don't understand this formula, I'll get lost with new lessons. Could you show me where I went wrong with this problem?" She showed him her attempt to out work the problem. He looked at it and said, "I'm so glad you made an appointment. It is hard to deal with questions in class." He proceeded to show her where she had gone wrong, and then he spent the entire lunch helping her clear up her thinking.  

From that point on, he would stop by her desk and ask her to show him her work to be sure she was doing it right. 

My own daughters' experiences with poor teachers have been wonderful opportunities to teach something that was not on the curriculum: How to deal with mean people who don't always have common sense (seem to lack compassion???).  

What I have learned over the years, is that when students have teachers who respond in rude and/or negative ways, it creates opportunities to learn a great deal beyond the curriculum: 

How to survive in less than desirable conditions.

How to recover from snide comments, rise above them, and still communicate in ways to get their needs met.

How to diffuse an angry person. 

How to persevere.

If I had stepped in, my daughters would never have learned how to diffuse the difficult people they have since had to work with in their professional lives. One daughter is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is very comfortable respectfully questioning doctors about the protocols they may have prescribed for their patients, when she feels it's in the best interest of those patients. Quite simply, those early potholes were truly teachable moments for the realities of life. 

For this reason, I am grateful to those 'less than wonderful teachers' who taught my children that there is much more to education than academics. 

Not Getting Results From Editing Student Work? April 24, 2017 12:11

My enthusiasm for grading papers waned the first year of teaching when I was faced with 70 papers to grade each week. I noticed that the correcting I was doing was not making a difference in my students’ growth in writing.

I needed to make a change to motivate my students to notice their own errors, make the corrections, and subsequently translate those corrections into improved compositions. A reaction of one student had regarding her first poor grade provided me with what I as hoping to find. She looked at her paper and began to cry. After probing, I found she had never received anything less than an "A-" on any paper. To go home with anything less than an “A” would mean she would be grounded for a month. I offered to give her the option to improve her grade by making the corrections and reworking her composition.

Whenever I offer an option to one student, I make the same offer to the other students. The results were amazing. The time I put into editing and the time they spent revising their composition improved their future writings. They had the motivation to critically look at my editings and resubmit their work.

One key component of this approach is students must understand why the corrections need to be made. Just making corrections and rewriting after the teacher has edited will not have a lasting impact on future work, so I added one step to the revision process. When students submitted their revised piece, they also had to include a separate page describing why the corrections made were necessary. For example, if quotation marks were missing, students told why they were needed. It looked something like this,”I need quotation marks because this is the title of a short story.” 

Offering the option for a grade improvement has been the key motivator in getting the students to learn from their errors. If I give the grade after making corrections without the option of improving one’s grade, I can guarantee few students would ever look at their errors. In many cases, they will throw the composition away if it is anything less than an "A" paper. My time will be wasted, and they won't learn how to grow as learners.

Nuts and Bolts Not Included March 18, 2017 09:36

Very few people read directions carefully which can be very time consuming. I am no exception. Students rarely read directions to their homework and projects 'as if' they are going to tackle their assignments right away. So, it stands to reason they experience challenges once they get home.

I encourage them to read the directions so they can ask clarifying quesitons. Many of students read the directions like I did when I went to the store to purchase a "Do-It-Yourself" bookcase. I looked at the directions on the box and determined I could do it. I purchased the bookcase and proceeded home. The trip took a half an hour, but once home and changed, I took out the toolbox I inherited from my father's. Remembering all his instructions about construction, I felt confident to do the job. 

I laid out the pieces on the floor and opened the directions. The first direction said, "Attach piece "A" to piece "B" with a quarter inch bolt."

I looked inside the box and didn't find any nuts and bolts. I thought they might have been taped to one of the pieces, but alas, they were not. 

So I read the directions more carefully. The last thing on the directions was, "Nuts and Bolts NOT Included."

Imagine my frustration. I had to get dressed, get back in the car, go to the store, and find the right sized nuts and bolts. An hour and a half later, I was able to start the construction. 

I tell this story to the students to emphasize the need to read their directions carefully, or they will waste time like I did.

Their homework will take 1/3 the time if they ask about it before they leave the class. Half the work is done when they examine it carefully enough to ask questions. The act of asking actually improves memory, which will make the assignment easier to complete. 



Stories From the Classroom-Stopping Blurters March 17, 2017 06:44

My students have taught me more than I think I have taught them.

I had tried several different strategies in my bag of tricks to get students to be respectful of one another and wait their turn to share ideas. Most of them worked for a short time, but would not have a lasting affect on the repeat blurters.

Last week, I finally found a strategy (by accident) that has had the longest lasting affect than any others I have tried in the past. 

A student was sharing her idea during a classroom discussion. She could barely get her idea out before ir stimulated several other comments. The expression on her face told me she was very frustrated, so I asked her, "Sweetie, how did it feel when you were trying to share your idea and your classmates started talking over you?"

Her response opened up further conversation. "I felt like no one wanted to hear what I had to said."

I asked the class if they had ever had others talk over them or cut them off. Every student in the class had friends or parents cut them off while sharing ideas. So, I asked the class, "How did it feel when you had something really important to share and the person you were talking to wouldn't let you finish?" 

The following were their responses:  

"I felt like I didn't exist."  

"I felt like the other person didn't care what I had to say."

"I felt like I wasn't important."

"I felt frustrated when I was trying to share my ideas."

"I felt like they didn't think what I had to say was important."

"I felt like my idea were wrong and their's were right, and they wouldn't even give me a chance to tell them what I was thinking. It was like they didn't care about my idea and only cared about being right."

I was amazed at how well these 8 and 9 year olds could articulate their feelings.                                                                                       
I followed up with another questions, "Do you think the people that cut you off do it to make you feel this way?" "Why?"                         
The students realized that those who consistently cut others off didn't realize how it made the others feel when they were interrupting them.                                                                                     
I had no idea how powerful this dialogue was going to be. From that point on, we have had five class discussions and a group assignment. In each case, the students have been great listeners who allow their classmates to complete their thoughts before sharing their own ideas.      
Yesterday, the students worked in groups of three and were asked to construct a paragraph in response to a social studies question.      
The paragraphs were great and definitely the result of a collaborative effort. The best part of all wasn't the amazing paragraphs they constructed, it was the comments afterwards.
"I felt like they were open to my ideas."
"I got to share my idea and my friends helped me see why I wasn't correct."                                                                                               
Every child felt heard. I'm holidng my fingers crossed that this will continue. I'll keep you updated.                                                                                               
It only took forty-four years to find this strategy. 
It is June and I can say that the children have not forgotten the discussion we had in October. There are still a few who get very excited and forget, but on the whole this has definitely been one of those strategies I will write in my journal as a must do next year. 

Secrets Students Should Know #7 March 12, 2017 10:27

Secret #7: Secret Makes Mistakes, Too!

Because teachers make mistakes in grading or when writing on the board, it is important for students to keep a watchful eye and be respectful when they catch an error.

Instead of shouting, "You left out a 't'," it would be more productive to ask for clarification about how the word is spelled. For example, one could ask, "I might be wrong, but I think the word has a "t" in it." 

The mistakes on tests are more important for students than getting 95%. They tell the student what they didn't know. It is very important that they get used to reviewing their corrected papers to find out what they missed. 

If a mistake is detected, telling the teacher they made a mistake is not an effective form of communication. Instead, state, "I think I got number five right because......(state the proof). Can you tell me why I got it wrong?" 

This approach will demonstrate students' thinking about the question and aides the teacher in offering more effective instruction. 

Teachers often write questions with one answer in mind, and they don't realize the other possibilities until students bring them to their attention. If students support their answers with facts and reasons, they will demonstrate their true understanding and gain favor in the teachers' eyes.

Through their questions, students can alert teachers to a question that needs rewording. 

Students can also improve their grade in three ways by advocating for themselves:

1. They may be correct and an error was made in grading which will raise their score.

2. Grading is subjective. Therefore, if a student is wavering between a B+ and an A-, the teacher will feel comfortable giving the A- if the student has been a respectful self-advocate.

3. Asking about errors on tests helps students think about the questions and improves memory for later recall.