Spring Break Rolling By

its-official-science-just-confirmed-that-spring-break-is-the-shortest-week-of-the-school-year-a269cI always get so many ideas for my classroom when I’m on Spring Break. Teaching is a tough job on your wit and candor and when you get these breaks, you reall appreciate it. If you do it right, you improve. Would you care to share with the community and I here how your Spring Break makes you better?

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Less Paper Lesson Planning

I had a rough day recently where I realized paper was not a good foundation for a week of lessons. Our copy machine is hit and miss.

Some days it will work perfectly, other day it will be the primary discourager of teachers on campus, myself included. I am always looking to make my teaching “foolproof” so I sat down with a huge chart tablet and started creating what I called “Less Paper Lesson Planning.” The embarrassing truth it that I only used it one day. However, the concept is still with me and I think about it as I plan the lessons for my classroom. I was told once that a goal will always put you in a good direction, whether you achieve it or not. The greatest ideas seem to come only after many failed ones are attempted. I guess that day I set a very deep-set goal that hasn’t gone away. We have a lot of materials at our disposal every day that can be used in place of copies. Projectors, ELMOs, PPT, white boards, smart boards, pair sharing and verbal response, computers, tablets, ipads … more are coming our way all the time. I am finding that when I put my emphasis on “less paper” more innovative ideas come.

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Negative Effect of Forward Questioning


Quite cool. This shows the effect of forward questioning: when you ask kids questions based on material you have not yet taught. How many times would it take feeling helpless before you bought out.

YouTube – Learned Helplessness

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Learning Objective

IAB_CL1_PX01642Series on EDI intro: Explicit Direct Instruction, or EDI, is a set of teaching strategies assembled by Data Works, a research company in California.  I have been trained and certified as a trainer and have found it a great way to deliver effective lesson plans.  It consists of steps which you will find in each post in the series here.  I hope you benefit by the series.  Please leave a comment, let’s have a dialog.

In the teaching method EDI, “Learning Objective” is the beginning of the lesson.  It should be stated clearly and the kids should show evidence of understanding by repeating it back and then answering as random non-volunteers. I usually write this on the board and explain any new or difficult words.  Then I say it and have the class repeat it.  You are establishing the goal of the lesson.  This helps the students mentally prepare for the lesson.  Many times teachers do “forward questioning,” or, questioning without teaching.  Forward questioning is a big no no.  A clearly taught learning objective is the best weapon against it. Here are some teaching methods.

Even though EDI is the focus here, a learning objective is an excellent part of any lesson plan. You state what we will be doing and stay faithful to it through all stages of the lesson.  It’s like a target guiding what you do and what you assess in the end. Now, onto the second step of my favorite method of teaching.

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Transition Activities to Break up the Long Day

8-tips-to-smooth-transition-between-consulting-firms-e1387739127278Whether a teacher sees the day as long is irrelevant, we’re there for the students. Having said that, the school day “bell to bell” can feel extremely long to a student. This can result in poor classroom behavior. I have good news, good scheduling and transition activities can help students stay awake, alert, and engaged throughout the school day. If you do a day correctly, you’ll hear the coveted, “Mr. Riley, today seemed short!” The first thing you need is a solid schedule that is accessible to both students and teacher.

In between blocks of teaching, you should have transition activities on hand in case you need them. A few that I use are: throwing the nerf ball with a simple, silly question. Whoever catches it has to answer. I do stretching, classroom-safe forms of what I call “quick yoga,” singalongs (This Land is Your Land etc.), and even putting our heads down with the lights dimmed to simply process the silence. Surprisingly, some of my students have requested this, You get the point: breaking up the day can make it run more smoothly. The theory of time spaced learning states that more chunks of information are retained in a period of time when breaks are taken periodically. In effect, doing “break” activities actually can produce more learning than trudging through the day like mud trying to stay focused and on task. Please help me and other teachers: What do you do to break up the day?

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