Kids Getting to You?

When it comes to teaching, there are a couple disparate popular opinions. Some say teachers have it easy “playing with kids all day.” The other one holds that teachers have it worse than most jobs in that kids drive them crazy all day. Where do you fall along the spectrum? We should in fact be thankful to work with the citizens of tomorrow. That basis along is enough to inspire respect, in my opinion. At the same time, many teachers suffer ailments as a result of their job. The kids truly are “getting to” many out there in the occupation. I think every teacher I know gets frustrated and at the end of their rope sometimes. Here’s a few simple things you can do when the kids are getting to you:

  • breathe. I have found that many times when I am getting frustrated I am taking shallow breaths. Oxygen feeds the blood and the blood feeds the brain so make sure you are taking fairly deep breaths in between teaching.
  • imagine them as grownups. I don’t mean to expect more from them than what kids can do. I simply mean to gain empathy for them when you imagine what they’ll be when they grow up. This can also help motivate you knowing you are entrusted with such a calling.
  • find the humor. Let them be kids, and laugh at the things they do. Laughter is the best medicine sometimes.

Of course there are many other ways to “check your head.” Remember to be aware of when the kids are getting to you. Whether it is the quality of life you have at home or the doctor’s measures, you need to pay attention to the signs. In order to best serve the kids, you must make sure that you are happy and healthy first. The students will thank you for making the effort to be a “whole” teacher.

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One Question Tests

48095_10151460458076117_1282058836_nI was driving back from Del Taco tonight and had an epiphany about my class and how I can help them all achieve standards mastery. It would be really helpful to see if they can actually work through math problems I have been teaching. I mostly do two kinds of assessments currently, whiteboard “on the spot” picking random-non-volunteers with playing cards and formal multiple choice paper tests. I find that there are usually a few who somehow get through these assessments and don’t really master the material. I thought it would be great to give a 1-2 question test each morning on the challenge standards, or the ones the whole class scores below 70% accuracy on. That in and of itself is not the great idea. Grading them is!

In class or at home I can see almost instantly if a kid is getting say long division or place value standards. I can make 2 piles: Those that “got it” and those who didn’t. In minutes, I have valuable assessment information that I can make a plan to address. I can work in a small group with those kids in the “did not get it” pile. I can also pair students who did get it with those who didn’t. I have found numerous times that some students respond better when taught by their proficient peers. It’s an especially great idea for middle to end of the year because in that time segment you have a pretty good idea which standards need extra work. The best part of these “piles” of tests is that you can put a post-it with the standard and save them for anytime you have the time to reteach and address these deficiencies. It’s very simple and very helpful I think. In theory, you could even avoid the copier by simply putting the 1-2 problems up on the overhead. If you have a Mobi or other writing device for your overhead that can be a great way to correct the test and reteach as well. In theory, you will have a stack of several standards paperclipped together that will help you work toward entire class mastery of the standards.

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CD Hovercrafts – A Fun Science Craft Idea

A science lesson can be such a great part of the teaching day. Unfortunately for some, it can also be the most boring. I am always looking for innovative ways to get kids’ attention while teaching them science. Bill Nye videos are very useful and they are titled by standard which makes it easy to … Continue reading CD Hovercrafts – A Fun Science Craft Idea

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A science lesson can be such a great part of the teaching day. Unfortunately for some, it can also be the most boring. I am always looking for innovative ways to get kids’ attention while teaching them science. Bill Nye videos are very useful and they are titled by standard which makes it easy to select one for your class. But video can’t be the sole thing you rely on when igniting interest. I discovered in the last few years that crafts or experiments can awaken even the most sluggish learner.

I’m currently teaching guitar in Summer school and I saw a science craft another teacher did I want to share. It shows how one force can work against another in unison to create movement. In this case, it is a hover craft. The materials needed are: 1) an old CD you don’t want anymore 2) a balloon 3) The “pull top” style water caps (see image) and 4) a glue gun.

As far as the lesson goes, the sky’s the limit. Do you think you could do something with this idea? I’d love to hear about it.

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Great Lesson Basics – Mixing Methods

A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

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IAF_CL1_PX01192If you’re like me, you’ve been to hundreds of trainings, most claiming to be the greatest lesson method. Then, you learned they were good and bad but never universal. Have you ever sat down and tried to piece together the best of the best into something that works for you? Whether you have or not “knowingly” done so, that is the role of the teacher … to synthesize a lot of information, create, and innovate. I used to be a huge proponent of a method called “EDI.” In fact, my EDI posts get the most traffic of any posts here on the blog. I am proud to share EDI because plain and simple: it works! A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

  1. Learning Objective: I have to introduce what I am teaching and what the students are expected to do in order to be successful after the lesson.

  2. Engagement: This is a step I invented. It is what people often call a “sponge activity.” It can be a story, a puppet show, a short video, a game, anything that gets the learner absorbed into the subject matter.

  3. Importance: I have found time and time again that when the kids know the value of learning the lesson, they are more engaged and thus learn more and faster.

  4. Steps: Everything in education can be broken down to steps. This is often easier said than done. Taking time with the steps is invaluable toward getting kids to meet the demands of the lesson.

  5. Guided Practice: Simply put, SHOW THEM HOW YOU DO IT. Use the steps and model over and over. I learned to play guitar by imitating Dave Sharp on the Alarm albums. I would move the needle back again and again until I knew every guitar riff. Kids are the same today with academics. Show them and then show them some more. Gradually release them to do it on their own.

  6. Independent Practice: At this step they should be doing what they watched you do over and over. Make sure they can do it before you let them go on their own.

20120815-140604.jpg7. Small group intervention: There are usually going to be a group of kids who need extra guided practice. Take them to a side table which the whole group is working independently. Just repeat the steps of the lessons for as long as you have time or until they get it, whichever is first.

This is the lesson method I have developed through the years. I would really appreciate your comments of what you think of it, ie; how I might improve it. Thanks for being part of the Dynamite Lesson Plan professional learning community.

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Keep Old Stuff

Keep old Curriculum 2To some this post is stating the obvious: keep your old materials for teaching. With all the “home makeover” shows on today, there is a definite emphasis on minimalism. Feng Shui and Hoarding are also a part of our modern vocabulary but throw all that away and keep old stuff! Remember encyclopedias? I kept a set. I don’t use them often but it’s a teaching opportunity to show the kids what life was like before the internet. We would consult World Book instead of Google. Kids get a sense of history that way. For example, compare the Apollo flight to the moon article in an encyclopedia to a Google search. Kids just don’t know there is a difference.

Keep old Curriculum 3Keep old textbooks that the District tells you to discard. I know so many teachers who regret getting rid of an old math series we used to use. I kept 21 of them! I wish I would have kept the 35 I once had. Another thing these are really good for is independent study. I sometimes get requests for independent study curriculum when kids are going to be out for weeks. When you have an old text, you can work with it and not risk losing the current texts. Of course, kids muct always have the option of taking home the current text per William’s act. These textx are great for small group work and even homework.

Keep old CurriculumMath manipulatives are notorious for being thrown out, as are Science kits. Both are golden to have around. I have noticed, for example, that many of my kids annot tell tradition time as in the hands of a clock. I got a hold of a kindergarten math kit a colleague had kept and I used it to teach time in about three sittings of 3 minutes each. Tis is helpful to all subjects and in all standards. You never know where it will pop up. Not to mention the kids that may think it’s cool to have an analog watch. Keep old stuff, I guarantee you’ll use it, Of course, some stuff must be thrown away. Someone said, it you don’t use it for 2 years, throw it away. I’ll leave that up to you.

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