Strategy of the Week

The Six-Step Formula for Making Successful Changes to Your Classroom

The Six-Step Formula for Making Successful Changes to Your Classroom

Many teachers feel that if they don’t start the school year with a clearly defined approach to classroom management, they’re doomed for the rest of the year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any time you want or need to make changes to your classroom management plan, you can (and probably should). One of the best times of the year to implement these changes is at the beginning of the New Year when students get back from the holiday break.

However, making mid-year changes to your classroom system can present a few challenges that you should be aware of. To begin with, it may take longer than expected to know if the changes are working. Previous procedures or policies have to be unlearned and replaced by new ones. Also, when you introduce a change to your class, you may experience a lull after the first couple days as the newness of the change starts to wear off and student resistance begins to increase. In fact, the point at which a new classroom management system is most likely to create chaos is typically three to four days after implementation.

To be safe, you should give any significant policy changes two weeks of trial before deciding whether they are working. Over that time period, be sure to consistently reinforce new policies or procedures. Remember, it will take time for you to adjust to change and even more time for your students to make the shift.

The following formula, taken from Rick Smith’s second edition of Conscious Classroom Management, outlines six best practices that can help any change go more smoothly and be more effective.

  1. Make a list of changes that you want to see, put them in order of priority, and number each.
  2. Make sure that number one is doable. If it’s too complicated, break it up into smaller steps and assign each a number.
  3. Start implementing your list, always working on the highest priority items first.
  4. Begin with your favorite class (for secondary teachers) or your favorite hour of the day (for elementary teachers). These represent the class that’s most forgiving or the time of day when students are most calm and relaxed.
  5. After the change starts working, introduce it to the rest of your classes or the rest of the day.
  6. Once the change is solid in all classes or throughout the day, start the process over with the next number in your prioritized list.

The secret to this approach lies in its focus. Teachers are so busy that making wholesale changes can seem overwhelming or intimidating. Instead, implement change one step at a time. Remember that you are like a scientist and your classroom is like a miniature lab. By starting small, you have more control over the experiment and are more likely to follow through and have success.

If you’re looking for an excellent resource on classroom management ideas and best practices, check out Rick Smith’s new edition of Conscious Classroom Management by clicking here.

Establishing Expectations in an Elementary School Classroom

An effective classroom management plan includes setting high expectations for students. When students learn clear and simple expectations, they can feel confident that their actions are setting them on the path for success.

Here are three essential elements for establishing expectations:

  • State expectations clearly and frequently
  • Post expectations prominently
  • Align classroom expectations with school-wide expectations

Benefits include:

  • Fewer student infractions
  • Empowerment and accountability for students to monitor their own behavior

You can watch a video on Edivation (formerly known as PD 360) to see more about establishing expectations from the first day of school. This video also comes with additional resources that show how to establish classroom procedures and expectations.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Five Key Ideas About Consequences

Five Key Ideas About Consequences

There’s no magic wand for helping students maintain discipline in the classroom. And if you think about it, such a magic wand would probably do more harm than good. Effective classroom discipline is less about keeping students in line and more about helping students understand their behavior, their priorities, and the value of their relationship with you.

Consequences are one of the most powerful tools we can use to help students make good choices in the classroom. Rather than being methods of control or punishment, they should be seen as learning opportunities that help students understand the relationship of behavior and outcomes. Keeping these five simple ideas about consequences in mind will make them easier to use properly and with the most benefit.

1. There are no punishments, just consequences

Punishments don’t teach the truly valuable lessons, especially when they demean, demoralize, or shame. On the other hand, if we keep in mind that we’re providing consequences, it’s easier to approach every step of discipline as a learning experience.

 2. Consequences are used as a pause to get our students’ attention

Sometimes a quiet conversation is all it takes to get a student’s attention. Other times, it takes a more severe consequence—like a trip to the principal. Either way, a consequence should serve to give a student a pause to reflect on their choices and to remind them that they are hungry to learn.

 3. Consequences should be organized in a tiered hierarchy

Use a hierarchy of consequences, starting with the mildest first. Then slowly and calmly increase the consequences as necessary, stopping with the first one that gives the student the pause you’re looking for.

 4. We have no control over our students

It’s important to remember that ultimately, we have no control over any of our students and following the rules is their decision to make. Yes, as educators we have the power of suggestion. Yes, we can influence decisions with our voice, our tone, the redirection strategies we employ, and the consequences that follow. But in the end, the decision is theirs. The deeper our respect for this, the easier it is for us to remain calm and supportive in moments when we might wish we had more control.

 5. Consequences teach students that they have the power of choice

When your consequences provide students an opportunity to pause and reflect, it affirms to them that they have the power of choice. They become aware that how they choose to behave determines the consequences (good or bad) that follow. They have the choice to misbehave, accept consequences, and calm down. Or, they have the choice to abide by class rules and experience the positive consequences.

If you’re looking for a great resource on classroom management best practices, check out Rick Smith’s new edition of Conscious Classroom Management by clicking here.

 Using Nonverbal Praise Routines to Improve Classroom Discipline

One great strategy for promoting classroom discipline and good behavior (and thereby negating the need for consequences) is through nonverbal praise routines. These facilitate student-to-student praise and encouragement that doesn’t interrupt instruction.

Effective routines are:

  • Quick, quiet, and simple
  • Promote engagement
  • Involve all students

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Three Ways to Stay Positive and Keep Stress at Bay

Three Ways to Stay Positive and Keep Stress at Bay

The Power of a Positive Attitude in Fighting Stress

There’s a universal truth about teaching that almost every teacher understands all too well: stress is part of the job. Regardless of how experienced, how prepared, or how rested we feel, when we start a new day, the stress level goes up.

One of the best ways to keep stress at bay is to maintain a positive attitude. While this might seem to be easier said than done, you can use these three sure-fire techniques to help keep your attitude bright and positive.

  1. Perform acts of kindness
    According to research reported by Allen Mendler (2012), author of When Teaching Gets Tough: Smart Ways to Reclaim Your Game, happiness can increase simply by one’s own acts of kindness for one week. By consciously focusing on kindness, we tend to be kinder to ourselves (Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, & Fredrickson, 2006).
  2. Focus on what’s working
    Another tip from Mendler is to track the positive things happening in your life by keeping a “three-good-things” journal. Every day, document three things that went well in school and in your personal life and what caused them. The research suggests that doing this for just seven days in a row can reduce depression and increase happiness for months (Seligman, Steen, & Park, 2005).
  3. Express appreciation
    Choose three colleagues at school and share one or two things that you appreciate about each of them. Start with people you know and with whom you feel comfortable. Then, for a challenge, consider choosing colleagues that you don’t often speak with, or even colleagues with whom you may have conflicts. Make sure that the appreciations you share are genuine and from the heart. Even with your most challenging colleagues, you can always find genuine appreciations. Reminder: This isn’t a “gratitude exchange.” It’s quite possible that you won’t receive appreciations in return. No worries—it’s your own expressions of gratitude that yield the biggest benefits.

Staying Positive Isn’t Just For Teachers
Keeping your students positive is also essential for success in your classroom. One way to emphasize positive behaviors and attitudes is by using a class reward system.

The most effective reward systems:

  • Give rewards based on specific performance criteria
  • Compare students’ performance to their own past performance
  • Generate enthusiasm
  • Are administered consistently and fairly to all students

Effective reward systems encourage both student participation and teamwork, and provide support for school values. You can see effective reward systems demonstrated in the classroom by watching this video on Edivation (the new PD 360). This video also comes with additional resources for further honing your own reward system.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Three Insights That Are Vital to Adopting a Thinking Schools Approach

The video above is from the Edivation Classics library that explores teaching intelligent behaviors such as metacognition, checking for accuracy, questioning, and more.

The importance of teaching for, of, and about thinking

In his new Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools LumiBook (cloud book), David Hyerle offers a brief analysis of the last 100 years of research on thinking, from early psychological testing based on IQ to the 1950s behaviorist views to constructivism and the “thinking skills” movement of the 1980s.

This “thinking skills” movement, which included Howard Gardner’s challenge of the constraining definition that bound thinking to an intelligence quotient, was introduced into classrooms by education leaders including Dr. Art Costa and Dr. Ron Brandt to help bring about a change in educational practice by emphasizing the idea of teaching for, of, and about thinking in every classroom.

These cogent, practical approaches to thinking align with and support the Thinking Schools model, and are well worth a closer look.

1. Teaching for Thinking. This can be summarized as creating an environment in the classroom for student thinking to improve, including teaching strategies that foster different types of thinking.

With this approach, teachers and administrators create a positive environment that promotes the development of students’ thinking and includes a variety of perspectives, such as consistent problem-posing by teachers which facilitates creative thinking, being open to a range of student ideas and learning styles, and teaching content.

2. Teaching of Thinking. With this approach, teachers instruct students in the skills and strategies of thinking directly and/or implementing thinking programs.

While Teaching for Thinking is based on the teacher using strategies that create a rich environment for improving thinking, Teaching of Thinking is based on teachers directly instructing students in skills and macro-strategies for thinking, as well as dispositions or habits of mind. These include cognitive skills, steps in problem-posing and solving, and reflective thinking. The desired outcome is that students will consciously apply and transfer thinking processes across content areas.

3. Teaching about Thinking. In this approach, teachers help students become aware of their own and others’ thinking processes for use in real-life situations and problem solving.

Teaching about Thinking focuses on supporting students as they become more conscious of their own thinking processes and provides background knowledge about how the human brain functions as the seat of learning. This approach steps back and allows students to see a broader view of thinking as it occurs in everyone, including how the human brain functions, how they think as individuals, and how knowledge is constructed.

The result: getting students to think about thinking
As students enter the upper elementary level, they will likely become more interested in what is going on in their heads. All three of these approaches, as identified by Costa and Brandt, work to get students thinking about thinking, especially as they are mastering several models of thinking for daily learning, and form a common sense way of framing avenues for classroom practice.

For a more detailed look at Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools, click here


To get Chapter 1 of David Hyerle’s new LumiBook (cloud book) for free, click here


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Three Principles for Creating “Thinking” Schools

How to harness the power of your students’ brains to accelerate learning

More than 30 years ago, John Goodlad produced a groundbreaking study that provided a stark and honest picture of the primary teacher-student relationship:

“If teachers in talking mode and students in learning mode is what we want, rest assured that we have it. Clearly, the bulk of this talk was instruction in the sense of telling. Barely 5% of this instructional time was designed to create students’ anticipation of needing to respond. Not even 1% required some kind of open response or perhaps an opinion from students.”

Of course, our classrooms have come a long way since Goodlad’s assessment, but the fact remains that the more we actually engage our students, the better their brains function and the more they learn.

But it takes more than just cutting down on lecture time to activate genuine thinking in kids. Here are three principles for creating “thinking” classrooms and schools as outlined by David Hyerle, the author of Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools. 

Principle 1: All learners have innate abilities to think in a variety of ways

We are all born with the capacity to think. There is a plasticity in the human brain, and when we facilitate different kinds of thinking in our students, they tap into that plasticity and accelerate growth. Emphasizing the way students learn (thinking skills) alongside what they learn (curriculum) can improve critical thinking and increase classroom success.

But how do we tap into the power of thinking? To begin with, when we teach our students, we should focus not only on the instructional styles that we prefer—or that we imagine they prefer—but also provide opportunities to think and learn in a variety of ways.

Principle 2: Create a connection between students’ thinking processes and the content we teach

As we help students develop thinking skills, we ought to do more than focus on the skills themselves. We need to make sure those skills are transferable. In other words, we have to offer students a way to not only improve thinking, but to use thinking processes and inquiry skills across a variety of disciplines and in their own lives. This requires consistency in applying thinking skills throughout the year, in every type of lesson and across all curriculum we present to students.

Principle 3: To improve thinking processes, we need student-centered models

To permanently instill effective thinking in students, leaders have to provide more than a list of skills to teach in the classroom. They need to provide models for thinking that students can learn very easily. These models need to be fundamental and adaptive—the types of models that can be used by all students.

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To learn more about how to develop thinking students and thinking schools, click here and download a free sample chapter of David Hyerle’s Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools.

Six Key Attributes of Student-Centered Thinking Models

In the age of information overload, thinking skills are more important than ever.

There’s more information at our fingertips than there has ever been in all of history. And while our students may be able to consume, memorize and manage this information, do they truly know how to think about it? It’s more important than ever for students to consciously understand their own thinking skills and develop them alongside the content they’re learning.

David Hyerle, founder and director of Thinking Schools International, spoke about the importance of growing thinking students at a recent education conference—and how, specifically, educators can begin the transition to a Thinking School model that supports these efforts.

The most effective Thinking School models share six common attributes that make them so effective at teaching thinking skills to both students and educators. These six characteristics are outlined in David Hyerle’s latest work, Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools, as follows:

  1. Models Are Fundamental

Each model is based on the most basic processes of thinking. For example, the Thinking Points model does not include all cognitive skills; just the fundamental processes that are used every day in classrooms. The five cognitive processes underlying the visual Thinking Points are derived from cognitive science research: human beings categorize, sequence, and identify characteristics of things using our senses, etc.

  1. Models Are Integrated

Thinking models show how the identified processes are used together. For example, each of the Thinking Points can easily be drawn and linked together visually on a page or across multiple pages. This is distinct from other visual tools, such as separate graphic organizers that have discrete graphic forms that don’t work together.

  1. Models Are Developmental

The models we developed are adaptable for simple or complex applications. To continue with Thinking Points as the example, each of the basic graphic elements may be easily expanded depending on the context of learning and the learner. One of the patterns, the “Group Points” for classifying information, can be as simple as categorizing three forms of water or as complex as the taxonomy of all living creatures!

  1. Models Are Intuitive

It is essential that a student-centered model for thinking makes sense to teachers and students alike within a relatively short period of time. There are many complex models that, while rich and detailed, never become used with fluency because the pieces or processes are idiosyncratic and do not represent how our minds work in real time. This is a key testing ground that teachers immediately understand: how can I teach a model to students if it doesn’t seem natural and, to a certain degree, obvious?

  1. Models Are Teachable

A student-centered model for thinking needs to be easy for students to access and understand. Teachers need to be able to present a model’s processes in a clear and defined manner so that all students can master them quickly. For example, students can easily draw the cognitive patterns for each of the five Thinking Points using only points, curved lines, and arrows.

  1. Models Are Transferable

Students need to be able to use each model in their lives. Models are most useful when they can be used for interdisciplinary applications as well as within a single discipline. Each of the student-centered models for thinking can be used outside of school and in students’ everyday experiences, college, the workplace, and for personal decision-making. View Points© are designed so that any person of any age can draw out their thinking in almost any context.

Overall, the Thinking Schools model represents a well-designed, sustainable, and significant shift toward a foundational focus on thinking. The model:

  • Draws from cognitive neurosciences and learning theory
  • Is backed by research-based practices and proven classroom models for applied thinking
  • Offers an effective and efficient way of developing all students’ thinking skills

Diver Deeper into Student Thinking Models

Pre-purchase your copy of Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools by David Hyerle, set to be published on November 19, 2014.

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Six Proven Steps for Effective English Language Instruction

Six Proven Steps for Effective English Language Instruction

When English language instruction is at its best, teachers are designing lessons to support academic language acquisition for all students. Those lessons are particularly effective for English Language Learners when they’re based on an instructional model that involves the following six stages.

  1. Introduction: the warm-up or anticipatory set. Teachers help activate students’ prior knowledge and prepare them for new learning.
  2. Input: the teacher-led direct instruction.
  3. Focus: a quick check for understanding. Can be in the form of thumbs-up/down or fist-to-five questioning.
  4. Transfer: students apply their new learning by working on activities or answering questions independently or in groups.
  5. Evaluation: students report on their learning through teacher check for understanding, whole-class share-out, or presentations.
  6. Extension: students take part in engaging, often hands-on activities that provide additional reinforcement of new knowledge.

English Language Instruction: Changes in the Weather, a video segment in the Edivation library, offers an outstanding example of how these six stages are used in a science lesson.

In this video, you’ll join Ms. Betsy Gomez’s 1st grade class at Agua Caliente Elementary School in Cathedral City, California, and see how her students increase their content vocabulary by using word links and visual reading guides to identify and describe weather conditions. Learning is differentiated as students engage in the classroom’s Equity Access Centers.

The students also review the lesson objectives and associated science content standards before starting their science vocabulary activity.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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10 Best-Practice Strategies for Preventing Bullying in Schools

10 Best-Practice Strategies for Preventing Bullying in Schools

Despite the heightened awareness in recent years, bullying continues to be a problem that affects students everywhere. According to a recent US federal government report, more than one quarter of American students ages 12 to 18—over 8 million children—were bullied during the school year.

Children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as suffer from physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, and poor appetites. And they view school as a stressful environment rather than a learning one.

But there are measures that every teacher can take to reduce bullying in their classrooms and schools. The following best practices come from the US Health and Human Resources website and offer proven strategies for intervention and prevention of bullying.

  1. Focus on the social environment
  2. Assess bullying at the school
  3. Obtain staff and parent buy-in
  4. Form a bullying prevention group
  5. Provide prevention training for staff
  6. Establish and enforce school rules and policies
  7. Increase adult supervision in “hot spots”
  8. Intervene consistently and appropriately
  9. Devote class time to prevention
  10. Continue efforts over time

A thorough examination of bullying, including the latest strategies for dealing with LGBTQ bullying, is available in six video segments on Edivation (search for “bullying” in Edivation).

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Integrating Technology Into Your Instruction

Integrating Technology Into Your Instruction

Technology moves fast, and it can be a challenge to keep up with the best practices for integrating the latest innovations into your classroom instruction. But you can watch some outstanding examples of teachers doing just that—using new technologies to engage and enlighten students in ways never before possible in the classroom. These videos are also great for rounding out your own professional growth goals.

3rd Grade Math: Rounding to the Nearest Hundred

See how students use the Nearpod interactive whiteboard app to learn how to  round whole numbers to the nearest 100.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

Additional videos focus on technology used in teaching – viewable on Edivation.

8th Grade Social Studies: Taxation Without Representation
Watch as students research using their tablets and participate in a role-play of the taxation of the American colonies, posting their responses to the role-play in real time through the Edmodo app.

10th Grade ELA: Multiple Accounts of a Single Topic: Japanese Internment Camps
Students analyze historical documents in text, audio, and video by using their own devices to access QR codes.

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Classroom Management – Intervention and Redirection Strategies

Classroom Management – Intervention and Redirection Strategies

Getting a rowdy classroom to focus on their work can be hard, but doesn’t always require dramatic measures. In fact, some of the most effective classroom management strategies are also the simplest—practical little interventions that redirect students and get them instantly on task.

This week’s video offers examples of exactly these kinds of classroom management strategies, with ideas on how to use physical proximity, gestures, and verbal reminders to get students back on task.

Watch teachers in California and Louisiana as they strengthen classroom management by using these intervention and redirection strategies in their classrooms.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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