In my last post I declared cold calling the hands down winner over hand raising when it comes to engaging and assessing students, and preparing them for future endeavors. Now cold calling takes on another challenger in the quest for the best questioning strategy: choral response. Choral response is a good choice when all students will benefit from responding aloud and in unison, as when early childhood/primary and foreign language teachers ask students to repeat a new word or sound. Another possible example is when teachers want students to call out arithmetic facts in an effort to build computational ...


A lot of students shrugged their shoulders when I called on them to answer questions at the beginning of the year. Others mumbled, "I don't know." Then there were those kids who let me have it: "Man, I don't know. Stop calling on me!" But I never did stop calling on them. And after a few weeks, most of those shruggers and shouters were earnestly answering my questions. That's how long it took them to adjust to my questioning policy: only raise your hand when you want to ask a question, not when you want to answer one. It was ...


Forget about standardized tests. Forget about weekly quizzes. Forget about homework. The most critical time for assessment is during daily in-class practice, when you can see sooner rather than later what students are struggling with and why they're struggling with it. It's only then that you can provide timely, differentiated feedback and remediation. (See Differentiated Instruction: A Practical Approach.) Unfortunately, teachers often miss the chance to do this because they're assisting a few students at the expense of assessing all students. At the end of typical math lessons, for example, teachers assign practice problems for students to try on their ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


"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 ...


Some teachers greet tardy students with shame: "That's your third time this week, Charles!" Others prefer sarcasm: "Nice to see Erica has decided to join us." Then there are those who are welcoming: "Good morning, Mario. Take off your jacket, and please join us." And in many cases, teachers follow up their greetings--regardless of tone--by catching latecomers up on what they've missed. So, which approach is best? None of them. In fact, the best way to greet tardy students is to not greet them at all. One reason for this is that when you draw attention to kids who are ...


A common yet misguided motivational tactic involves praising some students for the purpose of redirecting other students. A classic example of this is when teachers call out, "I love the way Groups 1 and 4 are sitting," when what they really mean is "I hate the way Groups 2, 3, and 5 are stirring." This not only has little chance of compelling students in Groups 2, 3, and 5 to get their acts together; it's also unlikely to reinforce the behavior of students in Groups 1 and 4. In fact, by the time the teacher coaxes Groups 2, 3, and ...


I may not have survived my first year in the classroom if it hadn't been for basketball. Many of my students lived and breathed it (this was the west side of Chicago during Michael Jordan's heyday), and I was pretty good at it. So when I was unable to connect with kids in the classroom, I tried to connect with them on the court. With the principal's and parents' permission, I invited students to join me in the gym after school when the team had away games. The only catch was that if they wanted to shoot hoops with me ...


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