March 2012 Archives

A lot of teachers give students participation points for speaking up during class discussions. The more students contribute, the more points they get. I've heard teachers say this motivates students, and it does seem to motivate some of them--those who need or want to improve their grades. But participation points can be de-motivating for students who aren't concerned about their grades. As a result, some students dominate class discussions, while others daydream during them. Another problem is that saying a lot doesn't always equate to learning a lot. A higher order skill like synthesizing information, for example, is all about ...


It's fine to encourage students to speak up by telling them there are no stupid questions. Yet students' willingness to ask questions has less to do with us encouraging them to do so than how we respond when they actually do ask questions. Unfortunately, teachers often respond to questions in ways that deter students from asking more questions. Sometimes we do this by dismissing or barely answering their questions because "we need to move on." Other times we do it more subtly through responses that would seem to encourage students to ask questions, such as "great question." How could a ...


My first teaching experience was as a substitute teacher in Chicago assigned to an 11th grade Algebra 2 class for ELL Polish students. I began by giving students an assignment their teacher had left for them. But no one attempted it, so I asked a boy who understood English if he and his classmates needed help. He laughed and, after he translated my question for his classmates, they laughed too. He then let me in on the joke: "We learned this in 7th grade." To me, however, it was appalling rather than amusing: 11th grade here = 7th grade there?! Yet ...


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