May 2011 Archives

Prevent Confusing Language From Confusing Students

In Academic Fluency: A Key to Academic Proficiency, I wrote that proficiency in an academic subject depends in part on fluency in that subject's language. Now, here's a key to helping students achieve such fluency: anticipating and alleviating confusion when words have different meanings in academic subjects than they have in everyday language. Such words are especially common in math where, for example, reducing a fraction to lowest terms has no effect on its value (e.g., 6/8 = 3/4). And where we borrow a "1" when subtracting even though we're not going to return it. It would be ...

Bad Students or Bad Situation?

At last month's Education Week webinar, Addressing Diverse Student Learning Needs, I stressed the importance of breaking from classroom traditions that are no longer--and may never have been--in students' best interests. One such tradition occurs every day in countless early childhood and elementary classrooms: students sitting on a rug as their teacher presents a lesson or reads to them. No matter how many times they remind students how to act while on the rug (criss-cross applesauce, pretzel legs, etc.), teachers still need to redirect kids more during rug time than at any other time. And you can't blame them, given ...

Responding--or NOT Responding--to Misbehavior

It's hard--really hard--not to respond to misbehavior as soon as you notice it (something I've experienced as both a teacher and parent). Often, however, the best response is a delayed response or no response at all. Here are a few guidelines: Distinguish inappropriate behavior from disruptive behavior. Just because a student's behavior may be inappropriate doesn't mean it requires your immediate attention. All too often teachers divert their attention from students who are on task to those who are off task even when the off-task behavior poses no imminent threat to other students' safety or opportunity to learn. The price ...

Assessment Over Grading and Effort Over Accuracy

"No, you keep it," I told students, as they tried to hand me their papers at the end of class. "Why did I do it if you're not even going to collect it? What kind of teacher are you?" students replied, before balling up their papers and throwing them on the floor. Did I appreciate students responding like this? No, but I did appreciate why they responded like this. It was early in the year, and they'd been conditioned for years to see it as a teacher's duty to collect every assignment. There was no incentive for students to lift ...

The opinions expressed in Coach G's Teaching Tips are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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