How Do You Put It?

Have you been in this scenario before? You’re in the middle of what has unintentionally turned into a long-winded explanation, and you start to feel it: the students are losing focus. You still have a little more to say, so you want to stay on your train of thought just a bit longer. But you’re concerned you’re losing students at one of the critical junctures. Then you think you’ll pause, just really briefly, and check in with them with a simple yes-or-no question. You just want to know if they are making the effort to take it all in, and snap their focus back into place for a few minutes more.

At this point, which version of this question are you likely to use:

A. Does this make sense to you?

B. Does this make sense?

C. Am I making sense?

Let’s think about this from another angle. You’re attending a professional development workshop, and as a member of an audience drifting off, your presenter asks the crowd if one of his points is making sense, which version of the above would you prefer? To what extent does it matter? Continue reading “How Do You Put It?”

1 Week, 170 Conversations: What Students Really Say about Learning, Letter Grades, and Anxiety

A coupe of weeks ago, I did something that I have never done before in my classroom: I sacrificed invested a week of instruction to hold a one-on-one conversation with each one of my students. I had always made the excuse that it took up too many instructional minutes, and that I couldn’t sacrifice the time. And after that long-winded week the only regret that I have is that I did not start doing this much, much earlier in my career. That week, was an absolute revelation!

Before I share everything I learned, I need to inform you why I met with all of my students. This year, for many reasons, when it comes to assessing learning, I have decided that I will no longer use points. Instead, I am asking my students to apply the standards through purposeful effort on their assignments, on submitted work I am giving them feedback only (no mark), and I am holding a conference with them at the end of each grading period. They bring a showcase of their learning to the conversation, and together we determine the letter grade we will send home. Continue reading “1 Week, 170 Conversations: What Students Really Say about Learning, Letter Grades, and Anxiety”

Accelerating the Belonging Belief with Transfer Students

Let me run a scenario past you and see what you think. Imagine you have been teaching for six years. For reasons that you can’t control, you have to leave your teaching position and relocate to another city. You’re fortunate enough to find another job, but you’re teaching a different grade-level and you don’t know anyone on staff, nor do you know any of the students you will be teaching.

How do you think you would feel?

Now, how do you think students feel when they transfer schools? Continue reading “Accelerating the Belonging Belief with Transfer Students”

Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.

When I first started assigning presentations in my classroom, that was all I did: Assign presentations. The students were given guidelines, but they were essentially left on their own to figure out how to plan and perform their presentations. And for most of my students that meant creating a PowerPoint that had every word they were going to say scripted on each slide because their plan was to read it to the class while facing the screen.

I welcomed the break from having to be the one up front, but those presentations were so painful. And I wasn’t the only one suffering. The students were too. The speakers and the audience.

Since those days, I have learned how to actually teach public speaking–as opposed to just assigning it. But even when I started teaching public speaking, I wasn’t seeing growth in all my students right away. When I was puzzling over this, one day I had an epiphany! Take Away PowerPoint. My students were relying on their visuals too much. They were hiding behind their slide deck. What they needed was to learn how to be the most interesting thing in the room. Continue reading “Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.”

Teacher Hack: Copy in Smaller Batches

As a secondary teacher, you know the routine. You head to the copy room to make a class set of handouts for the courses you teach–three sections of this, two sections of that. On your way, you wonder how long the line will be, how many copiers will be jammed, and whether or not you’ll have enough time to visit the bathroom before you can head back to your classroom.

The copy room is a big stressor for me. And when I get there, the part that I used to dread was the counting. My Struggle? Doing simple math under duress. I over count, making too many copies. Or worse, I under count, and don’t copy enough, which can bring my lesson to a halt. There were a few occasions when I tallied up my count correctly, but in a rush, I failed to notice that the copier had run out of paper with 85-90 percent of my copy job finished, then me sauntering off thinking I had everything I needed.

Maybe this isn’t your struggle, but for this English Language Arts teacher, getting the right count is a problem. But this one trick has solved that for me. Continue reading “Teacher Hack: Copy in Smaller Batches”