March 2011 Archives

It's common--and good--practice for teachers to have a short activity, often called a "Do Now," on the board for students to work on as soon as they enter class. Many teachers use the "Do Now" time to handle administrative tasks like taking attendance or organizing lesson materials. Then, after five or ten minutes, they say, "Ok, time's up," before taking another five or ten minutes to review the "Do Now" at the board. That's right, up to ten minutes to review something without knowing whether students have even done it, let alone how well they've done it. The "Do Now" ...


We educators are giving, helpful people. That's what drew many of us to teaching in the first place: a genuine desire to help children. And yet it's our helpfulness, I've found, that often hurts kids more than it helps them. The problem is that sooner or later success for students will require self-reliance. In college and the workplace, for example, the professor or boss won't be there for students every time they need help. And the more we help students now--when they can and should be helping themselves--the less prepared they'll be later when self-reliance is essential. I was as ...


Just a quick Pi Day pointer, math teachers: be sure to remind students that Pi is a constant rather than a variable. The misconception that it's a variable comes in part from the fact that we often express circumference and area in terms of Pi. I especially notice confusion when students work with the formula, Circumference = 2πr (there's something about multiplying the two outer factors, r and 2, and leaving π alone that gives students the impression that π is a variable). Happy Pi Day! Image by Toponium, provided by Dreamstime license Join my mailing list for announcements about webinars and ...


I previously wrote about my student James whose selective sneezing--always during whole-group instruction, never during small-group activities--gave new meaning to attention-seeking behavior. Yet as strange as the manifestation of James' need for attention was, the cause of it is quite common: teachers not calling on students when they want to be called on. And students' reactions to this are often far more disruptive than "sneezing." I'm reminded of an exasperated elementary school teacher who asked me for help with a challenging student I'll call Oscar. The principal warned me that Oscar had been a "problem" in previous years too, so ...


I've never seen a more challenging writing assignment for students than English teacher Brent Bice's journal prompt during my recent visit to his classroom at Esperanza Academy Charter High School in Philadelphia. Actually it wasn't the prompt but rather Mr. Bice's requirement that students respond to it in "20 words or less." That's right, 20 words or less. And as difficult as this was for a group of today's texting teens, it might have been even harder for my classmates and me. That's because, unlike Brent Bice, our teachers always imposed minimum writing requirements, which conditioned us to stretch out ...


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