Teacher Talk

Our Own Use of Language

posted Apr 14, 2019, 3:57 AM by HSD Principal

We have spent a lot of time this year talking about student language, so I thought we could look at the language we use. In the past few weeks, I've come across a few resources that address that topic. Cult of Pedagogy's Jennifer Gonzalez wrote Let's Give our Teaching Language a Makeover to help teachers ensure their language use is helpful for student learning. She says using language well can:
  • Shape student identity
  • Boost academic safety
  • Build student agency
  • Invite self-discipline and prevent escalation
Another great resource is the book What We Say and How We Say it Matters. The book challenges us to rethink some of the ways in which we communicate with students. It's a quick and helpful read and you can get the ebook for free through your ASCD Activate account. Log in to your account and you'll see a link for ASCD E-Books in the side bar. Click on it and What We Say and How We Say it Matters is the first ebook available on the list. There are other books on that site that may help you improve your practice or work on a personal teaching goal.

If you want some of the book's content, ASCD also developed a webinar on What We Say and How We Say it Matters. You can go to their webinar archive and find the link from 26 March. Again, there are a bunch of other webinars on that list that you may find helpful in your classrooms.

More on Language and Vocabulary Development

posted Mar 30, 2019, 11:00 PM by HSD Principal

During some of our language PD this year, you may have been thinking, "But those methods don't really apply to how my class engages with our course content." Help is here. The article Instructional Leadership for Disciplinary Literacy (you will need to login to your ASCD account for access) provides a bunch of helpful questions to figure out what good language use looks like in your class. Those questions are divided in to four categories and some sample questions are below:

  • In your classroom, what does it mean to read like a historian/literary critic/ mathematician/scientist? Have you made this explicit to your students?
  • Which texts might students read that mirror what professionals in this field read?
  • What supports might students need to read such texts?
  • What real-world problems, tensions, phenomena, or discoveries might these texts address?
  • What’s the best balance between easy, challenging, and complex texts to help students improve their reading skills in this field?
  • In your classroom, what does it mean to write like a historian/literary critic/ mathematician/scientist? What kinds of writing are common in this discipline? Have you made this explicit to students?
  • What are some good mentor texts for students to study – for example, argumentative essays, infographics, writing from sources, technical reports?
  • How might what students are reading inspire their writing?
Oral communication:
  • In your classroom, what does it mean to speak and present like a historian/literary critic/mathematician/scientist?
  • What types of public presentations are common in this discipline?
  • What exemplars might students watch – for example, TED Talks?
  • How is vocabulary used in oral communication in this field?
Group work:
  • In your classroom, what does it mean to collaborate in ways similar to professionals in the discipline?
  • What language structures and communication norms are common in the field?
  • What roles do members of this discipline play when working with others?

And if you're still looking for more ideas, here is some extended reading:

Teaching through Discussions

posted Mar 10, 2019, 4:59 PM by HSD Principal

Allison Cook and Dr. Orit Kent talk about how classroom discussions can be intentional teaching tools in Look Who’s Talking: Teaching Power and Responsibility Through Classroom Interactions. They share the story of some teachers' attempts to balance classroom influence and input during discussions. A recurring theme is that students don't know how to engage in effective discussions automatically; they need to be taught the appropriate skills.

Below are some of the things they say teachers can do in order to "distribute power and responsibility to all students."
  • Give every student more time to talk, to talk with one another, and time without the authority figure of the teacher mediating and evaluating—but give them the tools to talk productively.
  • Give students protocols and routines that give each individual student a time, role and opportunity to contribute and hold them accountable for their contributions.
  • Make sure classroom discourse is not limited to the “big stage” of the full group. Students need time to practice without feeling like they are in front of a big audience.
  • Teach students the words they can use with each other to explore, probe and refine ideas together productively.
  • Make sure students get to ask and pursue some of their own questions and wonderings, not just the teacher’s questions or the curriculum’s, so that students understand that they too are responsible for the agenda and for using criteria for identifying and pursuing questions worthy of study.

Do Not Grow Weary

posted Feb 24, 2019, 3:47 AM by HSD Principal

I'm going in a bit of a different direction this week. 

You may not feel it now, but if you are like most teachers, a time will come when you doubt your calling, doubt your influence, or doubt your ability as a teacher. Small doubts can drive us to improve our craft and practices, partner with others in growth, or change up how we do things in the classroom. But bigger doubts can be discouraging to the point of either burnout or resignation. 

If that's you, here are some articles I've stumbled across this week do give you a perspective - and hopefully some encouragement - in those seasons (and in case you're wondering, no, I didn't intentionally go looking for them, they all came across my feed).
  • I Can't Do This, God - Some encouragement from the Bible for when you feel like God is asking something more than you can handle.
  • The Imposter Syndrome in Pastoral Ministry - This article is speaking to pastors, but some of the concepts translate well to teachers who feel like they are faking it and will be found out.
  • To Be Or To Do? - This article is a review of/response to the book Action versus Contemplation about the tension between trying to do all the things and being who you are in Christ.

Sticky Faith

posted Feb 3, 2019, 2:14 AM by HSD Principal

I have been trying this year to encourage us all to reference big ideas - SLRs, school theme, ELL goals, etc. - more frequently and in a variety of ways. We know that the more ways in which students can relate current learning to already existing knowledge, the more likely it is to "stick" for a longer period of time.

SEW is over, but that doesn't mean Pastor Mike's message is done its work. As you have opportunity, remind students of his messages, connect them to your current learning in class, and bring his challenges back to students' minds. I trust that God's word is active in our students' hearts, some of them may just require a bit more processing time.

In fact, do that with any chapel message or homeroom lesson as you find opportunity. The more ways in which a message becomes meaningful to students, the better.

Media Literacy

posted Jan 25, 2019, 9:53 PM by HSD Principal

We have not been able to offer our own Media Literacy course in a couple of years, but those skills are invaluable for students dealing with the media glut technology offers. If your course deals with evaluating and using sources, critiquing positions or arguments, or other uses of media, you may want to integrate some of those skills into your curriculum. If you don't know where to start, here are some things to get you going:

Crash Course now has a Media Literacy course that provides YouTube videos covering its content, packaged in a course-like structure.

Ithaca College's Project Look Sharp is a "media literacy initiative of Ithaca College that develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula."

The Center for Media Literacy also has both developed and gathered numerous resources to help inform parents and teachers and to teach skills to students.

High-Level Engagement Without Burning Out

posted Jan 19, 2019, 10:06 PM by HSD Principal

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jane Halonen (University of West Florida) and Dana Dunn (Moravian College) say that high-involvement classroom strategies are beneficial for students, but they’re also labor-intensive and potentially exhausting for instructors. Some examples:
  • Giving students multiple opportunities to revise their work (which means reviewing all those drafts);
  • Giving students detailed feedback on their writing (which may be ignored by students interested only in their grade);
  • Group projects (should “loafers” get the same grade as those who really did the work?);
  • Internships where students lose interest and don’t put in the requisite effort (creating extra work for faculty advisers);
  • Seminars for newbie students who need lots of acculturation (“Remembering what it is like to be a novice and what specific advice may be useful to new students adds a dimension of effort well beyond course content,” say the authors.) 
But Halonen and Dunn believe such classroom strategies don’t have to result in burnout. Here’s how:
  • Start small. It’s wise to try out feedback-intensive strategies in one course. “A simple cost-benefit analysis may be useful in trying to determine whether the high-impact practice path is worth undertaking in a given course,” say the authors.
  • Advocate for additional grading support. Because giving feedback on student writing is so important – and so time-consuming – extra person-power should be provided.
  • Be judicious giving detailed feedback. Students can get a lot from a course without getting copious comments on everything they do.
  • Triage. Ascertain which students will really put detailed comments to work and spend time on their work; for those who signal that they just want a grade, minimize comments.
  • Use rubrics. Creating clear grading criteria up front saves lots of time down the road, and giving the rubric to students clarifies expectations and improves the caliber of work (and, of course, higher-quality work is easier to grade). 
  • Use digital shortcuts. This might include pasting in stock comments on papers that contain similar shortcomings.
  • Consider using audio feedback. This is efficient since most of us can speak faster than we can write.
  • Stagger deadlines. “Nothing can gut your enthusiasm for teaching like facing a large stack of papers that must be read and evaluated at the end of the semester,” say Halonen and Dunn. “Encourage students to sign up for different submission times.”
  • Poll groups on individual contributions. To discourage freeloaders, ask students to indicate anonymously how much each member contributed, and factor that into grades.
  • Get students’ feedback on the course. “If the high-impact practices produce the transformative effects claimed by the experts,” say Halonen and Dunn, “then the positive reports you hear from students might make the long hours you’ve put in seem worthwhile.”
  • Make sure you get credit. First-rate teaching practices, as compared to delivering the same lectures year after year, should be recognized in teacher evaluations and commendations.
This week's write-up comes via The Marshall Memo. 

Classroom Discussions / Conversations

posted Jan 13, 2019, 2:56 PM by HSD Principal

Back to Jennifer Gonzalez this week: In “Get Students Talking with Ongoing Conversations”, she describes teacher Jeff Frieden's process of engaging his students in class discussions. With a few simple changes to how he runs discussions, he reports the following benefits:
  • Much more on-task student talk
  • Students getting to know many more classmates
  • Developing social skills: “There’s tremendous benefit in getting past some of the socially awkward stuff,” says Frieden. “And really just learning how to interact with another human being will actually enrich your academic life too."
  • The opportunity to quickly check for understanding by walking around listening in on conversations – for example, when he asked a sophomore class to talk about Clover as the class read Animal Farm, he heard a lot of students asking “Who’s Clover?” so he called time out and talked about the character and her relevance to the book.
  • Less need for exit tickets and quizzes. “I collect less work,” he says, “but students do more.”

Your Work Matters

posted Dec 2, 2018, 4:58 AM by HSD Principal

Piles of grading. Irate parents. Disrespectful, disinterested students. Constant testing and unreasonable requirements. These, and many more things, conspire against teachers and try to bring us down. To discourage us. To make us wonder if we are wasting our time.

And today I want to offer you a small word of encouragement. You are NOT wasting your time. What you’re doing DOES matter. Your labor is not in vain.

I was going to tell you that there are students in your class who will look back on this year and be thankful for your influence. They may even be the one causing you the most trouble.

I was going to remind you that growth takes time and tell you that the seeds you are planting in young hearts and minds will grow and bring forth fruit, even if you might not see it yet.

I was going to tell you that you are making a difference. That there are students who care. Who are grateful. Who are learning. Who are growing. Even if they never tell you.

I was going to tell you all of this until I realized that all of these things pale in comparison to one very important fact.

God sees your effort, your work, your labor. And He is the only one that truly matters.

God sees the long hours and the shed tears. He knows your biggest frustrations and your deepest hurts.

He doesn’t overlook you. And He doesn’t take you for granted.

We put so much thought & effort into doing our best for our students. Into being the best teacher we can for their sake. And while we should emphasize the kids’ needs above our own, there is someone else that we should be serving above all else: our God.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)

This powerful verse reminds us that we are working for an audience of one: our Lord Jesus Christ.

When no one else seems to notice, He sees.

When no one else seems to care, He cares.

When our words seem to be falling flat, He sees our effort and is pleased with our faithfulness.

If we’re doing it all for Him.

So today, in the midst of the busyness, the frustration, the chaos – take a moment and remember the real reason that you are teaching. It shouldn’t be for the praise. It shouldn’t be for the satisfaction. It shouldn’t even be for the kids.

The real reason we are teaching should be for God.

And if we keep our focus on Him, it doesn’t matter as much what’s happening around us.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (I Cor. 15:58)

So don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Be encouraged in the Lord. Find the help you need.

And keep making a difference.

~ Linda Kardamis, from Teach4theHeart.

Classroom Management: It's not too Late

posted Nov 25, 2018, 3:15 AM by HSD Principal

Classroom management is usually something that gets attention at the beginning of the school year. But if your practices have started to wander throughout the semester (along with your students' minds?), it's not too late to restore solid procedures in your classroom. 

Jennifer Gonzalez teaches through negative examples in her article about Sabotaging Classroom Management. As a bonus, she presents her info through an infographic, a blog entry, and a podcast episode, so you can digest it in the way that works best for you.

Stay Calm and Teach On is advice specifically on how not to lose your cool while maintaining order. Maybe of particular interest right now, the author says term breaks can provide an easy way to refocus on classroom management - from a positive perspective:
Besides in-the-moment resets, holiday breaks or extended absences offer a natural opening for starting anew. Just make sure to give students a learning rationale for the reset, "which you can invent," says Lemov. When returning from winter break, for example, tell students, "Great, guys, we're halfway through the year and we've got a lot to accomplish so we can be super successful. We need to nail the routines for how we do things in the classroom so we're productive and the class is as engaging as it can possibly be." Or, "We only have 30 days until our big unit test on Lord of the Flies, and this novel is really important, so we need to make sure we crush it."

"It goes back to procedures and routines," says Lemov. "Identify two or three problem areas (like silent independent work), carefully plan out solutions, and have students practice so that they know how to do it right."

As you reteach procedures, instead of saying, "That wasn't good enough," try, "That was good, but we want everything we do in this classroom to be great. Let's see if we can do that perfectly." Positive framing, Lemov continues, "can be a culture shift in the classroom and earn a lot of student buy-in."

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