Posted in Current Posts

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

Continue reading “13 Reasons Why … Teachers are Effective”

Posted in Current Posts

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

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.

Posted in Current Posts

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”

Posted in Resources, Uncategorized

Open-ended Questions

Open-ended Questions

Name the Allies of WW ll.

Name the three states of matter

15 x 25  equals what?

Facts. Knowledge-based questions.

Stage 1 of Blooms Taxonomy.They have one correct answer and require very little brain power. You don’t have to figure anything. Just a simple robotic recall and Boom Bam baby, you got an answer. Forget how you got there. Never mind if you did it different than your neighbor. All we care about is the right answer.

Close-ended questions are so … closed. Dead ends. They go no where fast and the thinking, the learning, the creativity is shut in, shut down, and shut out.  Can you hear the brain cells dying as our kids are bored to extinction with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic let alone science and history?

Continue reading “Open-ended Questions”