Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Successful Strategies in the Classroom Part 2

Just a few weeks ago, I posted a checklist of items to think about as our teachers approached their classrooms each day. Since that time, I have started a list of what I believe are ways to continue to improve instructional practices for our teachers and ultimately for our students based upon ongoing feedback. These items are in no particular order, but I thought that it was important to share some of the items that our teachers could and probably should be employing in the classroom. It is our desire that our teachers will be in a state of continuous improvement so we can provide the best education possible for our students. If you are a teacher, then I hope you find this list useful.

  • Are you greeting students at the door EVERY day?
  • Are you having ongoing and consistent conversations with EVERY student that says “I care?”
  • Are you meeting students at the door as they leave EVERY day?
  • Are you gathering feedback from students on what makes this class enjoyable, boring, more fun, less fun, etc?
  • Do you ever embarrass students with your corrections OR your praise?
  • Knowing your students is as important as knowing your content.

  • Do your students really know how to take notes?
  • Have you considered spending time in class teaching students this skill?
  • Have you considered Cornell notetaking (see here for a visual on Cornell notetaking), collaborative note-taking in Google Docs (see here for instructions on collaborative notetaking), developing graphic organizers before OR after to reinforce note taking and tapping into other multiple intelligences in the process?
  • Do you provide them with outlines to structure their notetaking?
  • Do students understand that we communicate with words as they outline and words are simply abbreviated places that link to ideas (this is important for Cornell notetaking)? Henry Ward Beecher said, “All words are pegs to hang ideas on.”

Pop Quizzes
  • Do they provide feedback or are they used to punish?
  • They should not be used as a means to maintain discipline.
  • Better instruction is always better than control and compliance in the classroom.
  • Although students are quiet and controlled in the classroom, does the pop quiz act as it is intended...as a formative assessment tool?
  • Spend more time in your preparation and you will reap benefits in your classroom management.

Prior Knowledge
  • Are you accessing prior knowledge? Most units build on past units and moving to the next unit should not be a time to forget the last unit. Mention prior knowledge where possible. Give students what they need from the past unit demonstrating that they will need the old information in the current unit as you introduce new material.

Exit Tickets
  • Have you considered using exit tickets either on a slip of paper or in a Google form (see here for an idea) before students leave (or when they enter after doing the previous night’s homework)? This can include items that they are struggling with, having students state how it is relevant to their life, how current knowledge accesses prior knowledge, etc.

  • Are you letting students dictate your emotions to you?
  • Are you always in control of your emotions?
  • Are you staying calm?
  • Do you get quieter or louder during a confrontation?
  • Are you overreacting and escalating a minor situation into a major situation?
  • Are you avoiding the audience and the embarrassment associated with public confrontations by handling discipline in front of a student's’ peers?
  • The private is always better than the public. Put away your pride in tough situations.
  • Avoid threats that cheapen the discipline that is later given.

If you have ideas, then feel free to share them with me and I will collect those for a later post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1:1 Use of Tech...Not Always a Good Thing

Hickory Grove Christian School is a 1:1 school in grades eight through twelve. This means that there is at least one computer for every student in those grades. At HGCS, we provide the students with a Chromebook to facilitate instruction in the classroom. The hope is that instruction will improve if the computer is used properly in the classroom. But, there is a danger that one can overemphasize any tool (like a computer) or strategy which could actually decrease expected performance in the classroom.

A computer is a tool but it is only a tool. It is a good tool if used properly in the classroom but should not be thought of as the only needed tool in the bag. This seems to be a logical approach to education, but we must ask, what if this is the only method of instruction that a student is engaged? If it is overused, then there is the possibility that educators could actually be limiting content acquisition. Jack Grove in his article stated that it might even decrease grades.

A necessary component of learning is to provide students time to process information. Howard Gardner (see link on Multiple Intelligences) proposed that students have preferred learning styles (and teachers have preferred teaching styles) and posited that students seem to learn better when they are engaged in their preferred learning style. If this is true, then a student that had a preferred learning style that was only auditory, might not be maximizing their learning if they never engaged in visual learning. An approach that employs multiple intelligences might enhance learning and provide a better educational experience.

For example, spending time taking notes by hand allows students to assimilate information by using multiple senses (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to acquire and to organize information, and this might be a more productive way to take notes than with the computer only. This is not to say that the computer should not be used, but teachers should strive to find ways to incorporate new and innovative ways to take notes in the classroom that utilizes many methods of learning. The process of redundancy utilizing multiple intelligences of learning while taking notes by hand might prove to be a more productive approach.

We could extend this thought to other strategies in the classroom as well. For example, if students only engaged in the “gamification” of learning, would they be maximizing their learning potential? Further, if your students only use their computers to engage learning, aren’t they missing out on other meaningful opportunities to acquire information? Consider best practices, multiple best practices for your classroom and seek to utilize a variety of methods to reach your students.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Racial reconciliation

Over the last several weeks and months, there has been an increased focus on the racial injustice that is so often seen in our country. With this focus, there have come protest from people seeking to shed light on the festering wounds of race relations in our country that have ranged from Ferguson to Charleston to Charlottesville to our own city of Charlotte.

Many seek to demonstrate their allegiance to flags, cultures, and identities which stand below an allegiance to our Lord. As a school, Hickory Grove Christian School seeks to push forward the belief that our allegiance is to a holy God who seeks to redeem and reconcile unbelievers to himself.

As believers, we seek to use the instruments of God, such as prayer and worship, over the devices of man to bring about harmony and to work toward an end to the racial injustice in our world by using Godly means. As Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” I contend that the real check that gives us freedom relies on a faithful relationship with our Lord.

Philippians 2:1-11 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a  servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”