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13 Reasons Why … Teachers are Effective

It’s that time of year again. It’s when principals reflect on the last school year and start planning for the next.

I’m working on my pep talk for my new teacher orientation. Some of my new teachers are fresh from college. I remember being fresh from college, relieved that the grind of studying and researching were over, and I could finally rest and start teaching.

Ha. A highly effective teacher’s work is never done.

13 Reasons Teachers are Effective

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Every Student, Every Question.

I’m sitting on my patio working on my homework for a grad class I’m taking (Yes, it is finally warm in Michigan). I just read a section on quantitative data gathering during formal teacher observations. The observation focus under discussion is teacher questioning; Do teachers focus on questioning certain sections of the classroom while neglecting others? For example a teacher may ask questions of students in rows 2 and 4 while ignoring students in rows 1 and 3.

As a 21st century advocate my first question is why are the students sitting in rows? My second question is why is this teacher asking questions to only one student at a time?

You know the drill. We’ve all done it. We ask a question, wait two seconds and then call on the first student who shoots their hand up in the air. The whole class knows it too. So they hide. Head down. Eyes down. Hand down. 99% of the class becomes invisible while one student answers the question. They are off the hook, saved by the class answer-er. Zero learning takes place.

Let’s stage a revolution.

Every student, every question.

It’s one of my teaching mantras. I’ve used it for years. If a question is good for one, it’s good for everyone. All you need is a few tools and learning structures.

The Process:

Ask the entire class the questions.

Answer options:

  1. Whiteboards: Every student in class answers on their own whiteboard and shows their answer to the teacher.
  2. Turn and Talk: Every student writes their answer on their whiteboard and then turns and tells a partner their answer.
  3. Turn and Write: Every student answers the question in their head (give think time) and then tells their partner. The partner A records their partner B’s answer on their own white board and vice versa
  4. Group Answer: Break class into groups of 4. Ask a question. Every student records an answer on their whiteboard. Every student in each group shares their answer with their group. The group then writes a group answer including info from every group member.

There is no where to hide.

IDK is not an answer in my classroom. Neither is a shoulder shrug. Everyone knows it so no one even tries it any more.

I am often amazed at my students’ answers. Many times they include info I didn’t think of. Some students draw diagrams. Some students answer with pictures. I’ve even had a few students answer questions by drawing cartoons. Amazing.

So no more one kid, one question.

Every student, every question, every time.

by Mary Kay Kane

copyright 2017. all rights reserved.

Posted in Current Posts

Good Stuff!

I read a couple of excellent educational blog posts over Spring Break.

I try not to work on school stuff over breaks, but I can’t help myself! It’s hard to become un-passionate about my passion! Reading the work of other excellent educators fires me up, keeps me real and makes me want to change the world. I hope this article by Jon Gordon encourages you as it does me.

Continue reading “Good Stuff!”

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Operation Innovation!

“Mrs. Kane, I’m bored!

There is nothing to do out here,” said a sweaty little sweetie at recess.

I looked in disbelief at the multilevel brightly colored playground equipment. How could she be bored? Yet, I heard this complaint at every recess.

It wasn’t always this way.

A decade earlier, our school did not have a playground. The kids played in a big grassy empty lot at the back of our property (don’t judge). They had a whole “tent town” thing going on. They used sticks, rocks, and abandoned lumber, along with other flotsam and jetsam they found in the grass to build the forts. The only problem we had were occasional turf wars.  They were busy and not bored.

They were innovative.

Innovation:a new method, idea, or product, to make  a beneficial change, to introduce something as if new, teaching/allowing/enabling students to take a new idea, an old idea, someone’s idea and make it better.

I’d like to add my own definition: Innovation is not an isolated project or activity; it is a philosophy or “teaching worldview.” It’s allowing children to use 19th century skills (creating, carving, inventing, crafting, composing, designing) in 21st century classrooms.

Innovation is what we do when we have a bad snow storm and lose power-we become innovators instead of consumers. (Admit it. Your kids invent all kinds of games to play when the power goes out).

How innovative are you?

Innovative Teacher Test:

  1. I try new things in my classroom. I am brave.
  2. I make mistakes and my kids know it.
  3. I am transparent. I ask for help when I need it and admit my mistakes (See number 2)
  4. I use technology as a tool.
  5. My classroom is connected.
  6. I am a lifelong learner. Each day I learn something new about education.
  7. My students have voice and choice.
  8. I am very likely to learn it on Sunday and try it on Monday!
  9. My lesson plans are a living breathing document.
  10. I always have a project going.
  11. My kids talk as much or more than I do.
  12. I am one of several teachers in my classroom.
  13. Failure is ok in my class.
  14. I praise process instead of product.
  15. I share ideas with  others.

If you answered yes to ten or more items, you are on your way to becoming  an innovative teacher! If you answered yes to less than ten questions, don’t get discouraged. Get your growth mindset on, pick an item from the list above and start researching!

Check out my Resource Page for innovation resources!

Do you have another item that should be added to the Innovative Teacher Test? Please leave me a comment below. I’d love to chat with you!

By Mary Kay Kane

all rights reserved. copyright 2017

 

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Gritty Kids

What makes an excellent student?

A thought provoking question that requires a little thought. When I was in grade school, I thought I knew the DNA of an excellent student.

  1. They always finished their work before EVERYONE.
  2. They were fast.
  3. They got straight A’s. Always.
  4. Everything was easy for them.
  5. They NEVER made mistakes.
  6. They effortlessly completed science projects by themselves.

I saw these excellent super-students and I knew I wasn’t one of them. I slogged through my assignments, often the last one done. I wasn’t fast. I never ever received straight A’s. Work wasn’t easy for me—it required editing, rewriting and reflection. Repeat. Sigh.

Then I hit high school, which gave way to college and I witnessed a few of the super students crash and burn. What happened? All the promise. All the potential. Gone.

What were they missing? Some needed piece of knowledge or revolutionary learning method? Nope.

Struggle. Grit. Perseverance. Failure.

They never learned to struggle through hardship to find the elusive answer, hovering just beyond their fingertips. They never had to persevere through writers block or brain cramps. Most importantly, they never learned how to fail and how to get back up after failing and how to grit it out until they finally make it to the finish line worn ragged tired proud.

What makes an excellent student?

Worried parents often ask.

My child struggles. My son has to work hard. My daughter asks so many questions.

Good. They will make it. They are learning what it takes to thrive in real life. So stop trying to make it easy for them. Teach them everyone doesn’t get a trophy. Quit going before your child solving every problem and protecting them from the hardship and struggle that will only serve to make them stronger. Quit using the four-letter “f” word—FAIR. Life is not fair, so teach your kids get up, get going and struggle on.

I’d rather my students be gritty than super smart.

What do you think? What makes an excellent student? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to chat with you!

By Mary Kane

all right reserved. copyright 2017.

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Shhh! Don’t Tell! Inquiry-Based Learning

Step One:

Ok. Open your envelopes, sort your numbers and discover how the numbers relate to each other, I said to the 5th grade class. The envelopes contained slips of paper printed with two base numbers and their factors. The base numbers are underlined and each set is in a unique font. I was using inquiry-based learning method with my class.

“Inquirybased learning (also enquirybased learning in British English) starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge. The process is often assisted by a facilitator.” Wikipedia

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21st Century Classroom

Seventeen years ago, we were preparing to enter the 21st century.

If you’re over 40 you probably remember stockpiling canned goods, bottled water and beef jerky, waiting  for the giant cyber crash, while hiding in your basement (something to do with 100101010 binary computer code stuff I think). It never happened. Continue reading “21st Century Classroom”