Great teachers maintain control of their classrooms. They do not, however, control their students. In fact, show me a teacher who tries to control students, and I'll show you a classroom that's out of control. One way many teachers try to control students is through disciplinary rules and punitive consequences for breaking those rules. Yet just as harmful as teachers' efforts to control students' behavior are their efforts to control students' thoughts. Some examples: The early childhood teacher who told a student to redo his drawing because "this looks nothing like an elephant." The science teacher who insisted on being ...


Like a lot of teachers, I believed at first that attention-seeking students needed attitude adjustments. So when kids acted out, I not only punished them but also preached to them about changing their attitudes. But nothing changed until I concluded that the best way to modify someone else's behavior is to modify your behavior. And the behavior of mine most in need of a change related to what I gave attention to and how I gave attention to it. In particular, I needed to start focusing my attention on constructive behavior at the expense of disruptive behavior rather than the ...


When I worked in business, managers--not the people they supervised--decided who would work together on a project. This made sense, since they were in the best position to objectively determine which staff members would provide the right combination of skill, teamwork, and other qualities to ensure a successful project. The same goes for the classroom where teachers are in the best position to ensure all students are set up for success when they work in small groups. That's why it's better for you to assign students to groups than let students choose groups themselves--even in homogeneous classes, since you never ...


Note to readers: With legislators considering the future of NCLB, I feel compelled to share some thoughts on this from my experience as an urban teacher and school leader. So, here's my first post on policy rather than practice: No Chance for Latinos and Blacks. That's what came to mind for me when I first heard about NCLB, and that's what still comes to mind nearly ten years later. I'm referring in particular to at-risk Latino and African American public school students like those I taught in Chicago. And though I had few students from other ethnic/racial groups, my ...


"Man, I didn't do nothing," students often said to me when I spoke with them about their behavior. "My point exactly," I replied. "If you didn't do nothing, you must have done something." It was after one of those exchanges when it occurred to me that the English language might provide a better way of helping kids add and subtract integers (really all real numbers) than the many approaches--from rules to manipulatives to real-life illustrations such as temperature and money--I had tried up to that point. I started by asking students, "If Fluffy is not not a dog, what is ...


I've been in many classrooms where students were sitting in groups but weren't functioning as groups. And I've seen many teachers address this by asking students who've successfully completed a task to help those who are stuck. Recently, for example, I heard a teacher praise a student for solving a difficult problem, and then say, "Make sure your whole group understands." He also said to a student in another group, "Great, now show everyone else how to do that." One of these students ignored the teacher and kept working on his own. And though the other student helped her classmates, ...


Presenting solutions to homework or class work in front of the class can be a real confidence booster for students. But it can also be a real confidence buster for them if they come to the board thinking they're experts and their answers turn out to be wrong. And if that's not deflating enough for kids, imagine how they feel standing there as teachers try to rescue them with what amounts to private tutoring in front of their peers. I've seen this scene play out in many classrooms, including mine until I noticed students slinking to their seats just minutes ...


A lot of teachers think that if you assign homework, you must review it with students the following day. This makes sense in that it's important for students to correct and learn from their mistakes. But what if they didn't make any mistakes? I realize it's unlikely every student will have the correct answer for any given question. Yet even if only half the class got it right, what should those students do while you review something they already know how to do? Well, I can tell you what they did in my classroom before I changed my approach: they ...


In previous posts I explained when and why it's better to ask students questions using cold calling rather than hand raising or choral response. Now, here are some tips on how to use cold calling: Call on students equally yet randomly. Some teachers rely on memory to do this. Others place Popsicle sticks with students' names on them (one stick per student) in a cup, and then pick a stick each time they ask a question. And others use technology, including St. Paul Public Schools Special Education Teacher and Technology Coach Chris Alper-Leroux who uses Microsoft Excel's random number generator ...


I observed an Algebra class recently where students were trying to multiply two polynomials, (x + 5) and (3x2 - 5x - 4). And as I roamed the room, I noticed several students who were stuck because they couldn't "FOIL it." Others, meanwhile, did FOIL it and came up with an incorrect product, 3x3 + 15x2 - 4x - 20, as a result (instead of 3x3 + 10x2 - 29x - 20). The problem, of course, is that the ever-popular FOIL Method only works when multiplying two binomials. Use it when multiplying a binomial by a trinomial, as students did in the above ...


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