For most of my career, two powerful sets of habits have guided the work I do with my students. Together, the Habits of Mind and Habits of Character show children the specific traits and behaviors needed to become better thinkers, better students, and better people. These 22 habits empower children to maximize their considerable potential, and I simply cannot imagine myself teaching in a classroom without using these ideas as daily reference points.

Recently, I have noticed that a few of the behaviors included in this larger list seem to have particular power in explaining why some students consistently achieve success in school and why others haven’t yet been able to do so. Of course, factors that lie outside the control of teachers and schools most certainly impact how well children perform in the classroom, but the good news is that there are a small number of “high-leverage” behaviors that all children can learn and that all teachers can nurture and develop. With time, effort, and consistent attention paid to these five areas, every child can become a highly successful student and experience the greater confidence, higher self-esteem, and greater learning gains that result from this success.

I describe my quest to help children develop these behaviors as “The Drive for 5.” Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of blog posts that describe each of these traits. It is my hope that by giving attention to these high-leverage behaviors, we can empower all of our students to be successful in school and beyond.


 

Published in Blog
Saturday, 31 January 2015 02:16

A Super Bowl-Themed Tip (Teaching Tip #125)

Because novelty is such a powerful learning catalyst, I'm always on the lookout for unique (even off-the-wall) objects, images, and ideas that have the potential to capture student attention and help important learning "stick" in their minds.

Typically, I will choose the instructional objective or larger life lesson first and then search for a novel way to convey it to children. That's how it worked when I created the "Tower of Opportunity" to express the idea that education is the key that opens doors and when I came up with the movement, song, and story activities that would later comprise the book Rock It!.

Sometimes, though, the order is reversed. That was the case a few Sundays ago when I was watching an NFL football game and saw a fan in the stands holding up the "D-fence" sign shown in the accompanying image. For years, crowds have been chanting "Defense" to give their team an edge, and this was the first time I had ever seen an actual team-specific sign that fans could wear on one hand while they were chanting.

I knew I had to have one. My plan was to bring the sign to class to share it with my students and have it on display for the rest of the year as a consistent reference point. What was the sign going to refer to? I had no idea. So, I started thinking of a way that the sign could help me communicate something important to my kids, and after a while, I came up with the following. As you read, imagine I'm talking to a group of children.

"When I was your age, I loved to play sports. One of my favorites was basketball, and I would spend hours outside practicing my shooting. Like most kids, my friends and I loved playing offense. We loved to shoot the ball and score. Even though we knew defense was important, it wasn't as much fun as playing offense, and we didn't devote the same time and effort to improving our defense as we did to our offense. As we got older, we realized that for our teams to be successful, we needed to give equal attention to defense. Moving our feet, boxing out for rebounds, and other aspects of defense, no matter how small, aren't glamorous, yet they are necessary ingredients for success.

The same idea holds true with baseball and football, in which hitting home runs and scoring touchdowns are fun and exciting, yet they represent only a small part of the game. Success requires a serious, ongoing commitment to the little things. The fans in the stands may not notice these little things, and they certainly aren't likely to show up on TV highlight shows. But they matter. 

The same is true with being a great student. In Writing Workshop, for example, you may love to come up with story ideas and love to draft. You may not feel the same way about revising or editing, but if you want to be a successful writer, you need to give these areas equal attention. Sometimes, these tasks may not be fun, and they may feel like a grind, but committing to doing them with a high level of effort and with attention to detail is necessary. These habits will stay with you and help you become successful in whatever you choose to do when you get older.

Starting today, every time you see the sign I'm about to unveil, let it remind you of the effort we need to bring to the little things, the small tasks that may not be your favorite but that are so important for your success, in school and in life."


 

Published in Blog
Friday, 26 December 2014 18:32

Best Picture Day Ever

Recently, my school held its annual picture day. Traditionally, each class begins its turn by lining up in the auditorium to take individual snapshots and then heads outside to the risers to take the group photo. Usually, I line up first for the individual pictures so I can be available to lead the transition outside to the risers and minimize any behavior that arises due to the fact that the early finishers need to wait a while for the rest of their classmates. I forgot to do that this year, and I ended up sixth or seventh in line. After I took my individual photo, I noticed that the kids who preceded me were not in the auditorium, and I was a bit worried that they had made their way outside unsupervised and were fooling around.

When I walked outside, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Six kids were already in line in order from tallest to shortest, ready for the group photo. Two of them had decided to take charge, one boy and one girl. Each time a new student exited the auditorium, these volunteers helped that person find his/her place in line. 

It turns out that I wasn't the first adult who noticed this. A parent whose child was in my class last year and who was assisting on picture day approached the two and asked what they were doing. The girl replied that a part of our class mission statement talks about leadership, and they decided to show leadership when their teacher wasn't there.

We had written our mission statement during the first full week of school and had reviewed it every Friday as part of our morning routine. To see these kids internalize and act on the ideas we had included in the mission statement independently was incredible. When we returned to class after taking our class picture, I shared this story with the whole group so that the students who were not there to witness it could understand how powerful it is when we take an abstract idea from our mission statement and apply it without being asked or prompted.

Published in Blog

Enter today to win 4 e-book copies of Chase for Home, the latest installment in the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12 and the sequel to the award-winning Chase Against Time. To enter, visit my "Teaching the Whole Child" Facebook page and complete the simple steps shown below. (The steps should take you no more than a minute.) The giveaway ends Sunday, December 21st. That evening, I will randomly select a winner, who will be able to enjoy one copy of the e-book and share the other three with family and friends.

1) “Like” my “Teaching the Whole Child” Facebook page.

2) Click the “Join My List” button to subscribe at www.stevereifman.com.

3) Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment under the giveaway announcement with the words “Count me in.”

Published in Blog
Saturday, 06 December 2014 21:19

Take 89% Off My Mystery Writing Course for Kids

To celebrate both the holiday season and the recent release of my children's mystery book Chase for Home, I would like to make my mystery writing course for kids on Udemy.com available to you, your children, and your students for just $10.

Description
The course is designed for children 8-12 years of age who are interested in writing their own mysteries. In the easy-to-follow videos and detailed handouts that comprise the course, I take young writers step-by-step from the beginning of the writing process to the end and help them craft stories that keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats! It doesn’t matter whether students are already seasoned mystery writers or brand new to the genre. This course promises to take young writers to the next level.

Latest Course Review
"The Creative Writing Teacher You Wish You Had. The single best mystery writing class I've tried anywhere. Distilled essence of exactly how to write a mystery. Discusses all the elements and then clearly shows you how to put it all together. GREAT for kids, but adults would learn a lot and possibly help them fill in gaps in their understanding." -KB

Click here to learn more about the course and access the 89% discount.

Published in Blog
Saturday, 22 November 2014 21:53

Bring Chase Manning into Your Classroom


Thanks for the wonderful response to last week's book release announcement. It's been an exciting time. In this post I would like to share a few of the ways you can incorporate the Chase Manning Mystery Series into your instructional program. 


Chase Against Time and Chase for Home are Level Q on the Fountas & Pinnell scale and appeal to both boys and girls who are seeking fast-paced, engaging independent reading books

• Both books are ideally suited to be used as read alouds and mentor texts during Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop units on mystery and “edge-of-seat” fiction because they include numerous examples of end-of-chapter cliffhangers, red herrings, suspects, motives, and other important mystery elements.

• Please contact me if you are interested in arranging a school visit (Los Angeles area) or Skype visit. Over the past few years, I have conducted numerous book talks in which I describe the process of writing my mystery books, share my original notes and outlines, encourage children to pursue their own writing projects, offer instructional strategies and suggestions, and conclude with a question and answer period. 

 

Published in Blog
Sunday, 16 November 2014 01:21

22 Habits that Empower Students


 


  • Presenting 9 “Habits of Mind” and 13 “Habits of Character” that promise to enrich your daily instruction and lead to better student learning and behavior. These 22 habits exemplify a “teaching the whole child” approach and address a variety of valuable academic thinking skills, work habits, social skills, and character traits. In this book National Board Certified elementary school teacher Steve Reifman defines each habit in user-friendly terms, describes how to introduce the habits to children, and explains how to foster student improvement with the habits through a series of classroom-tested ideas, strategies, and activities. In addition, Reifman details how Parent Conferences, Student-led Conferences, a morning movement warm-up routine, and discussions of inspirational quotes can all be used to further your efforts to develop enthusiastic, motivated students who work hard, work with purpose, and work well with others.

The book includes a link to a free PDF that contains:
*A printable list of the Habits of Mind and Habits of Character, along with definitions
*A complete set of signs and slides you can use to introduce the habits to children
*A user-friendly rubric that students can use to assess their progress with the habits
*A variety of options that students can use for self-evaluation and goal-setting
*Sample quotes you and your students can discuss to bring the habits to life
*All the printables you will need to implement Student-led Conferences that shine a spotlight on these habits

 

Published in Teaching Books



Synopsis

Riding high in the Spring of his 5th grade year, Chase Manning joins the Apple Valley baseball team, and his clutch hitting leads the squad to within two victories of the school’s first ever league championship. Confidence is high—until Chase’s lucky batting glove turns up missing the day of the semifinal game. Unsure whether the theft represents an attempt to derail the baseball team as a whole or a personal attack against him, Chase must track down the culprit and find the glove before the team boards the bus at three o’clock. Surprising and suspense-filled plot twists fill the pages of this single-day, real-time mystery thriller.
 

About the Chase Manning Mystery Series

The Chase Manning Mystery Series features single-day, real-time thrillers that occur on an elementary school campus. Written for readers 8-12 years of age by National Board Certified Teacher Steve Reifman, the series launched with the award-winning Chase Against Time, in which fifth grader Chase Manning must investigate the mysterious disappearance of the cello that the school plans to auction off to save its prestigious music program. Chase Against Time has enjoyed rave reviews from children, parents, and teachers. Young readers love the book’s fast-paced, action-packed format while parents and teachers appreciate the book’s kid-friendly tone and content. Chase is now back in the eagerly anticipated sequel, Chase for Home.

Note for Elementary School Teachers and Parents

Chase Against Time and Chase for Home are Level Q on the Fountas & Pinnell scale. Both books are ideally suited to be used as read alouds and mentor texts during Reading Workshop units on mystery and “edge-of-seat” fiction because they include numerous examples of end-of-chapter cliffhangers, red herrings, suspects, motives, and other important mystery elements. If you are interested in teaching children how to craft their own mysteries, check out Steve’s e-book, The Ultimate Mystery Writing Guide for Kids.


 

What Readers Are Saying

  • "Reifman combines nail-biting suspense with great detail to create an amazing plot."-Kirun Cheung
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  • "I couldn't put the book down. I really admire how Chase stands up for himself." -Sara Cooper
  •  
  • "A perfect book for both boys and girls of all ages." -Jenny Kean
  •  
  • "This book made me think hard." -Ace McAfee

Book Talks & Book Signing Events

Steve has held many Book Talk and Book Signing Events at public libraries, elementary schools, and private homes since the release of Chase Against Time; During these 30-45 minute book talks, Steve describes the process of writing his mystery books, shares his original notes and outlines, encourages children to pursue their own writing projects, offers instructional strategies and suggestions, and concludes with a question and answer period. Steve is also available for classroom Skype visits. To arrange an event, please e-mail Steve.

 

Published in Latest
A few weeks ago I began preparing for my school's annual parent-teacher conference week. I realized that each meeting basically consists of two parts: 1) the time I spend providing general information about the items on the conference agenda (e.g., class policies, units of study, scoring systems, rubrics) and 2) the time I am able to focus on the progress of each child (e.g., strengths, improvement areas, goals, work samples).

To minimize the time I needed to spend on the former and maximize the time I could spend on the latter, I decided to make a short video, and I asked each family to watch it before they arrived at their conference. The video contains the general information that I would normally mention during each meeting. By having everyone watch the video prior to the conference, I was able to jump right into the information that pertained to each specific child and keep the focus there for the duration of the meeting. I found the conferences to be more efficient and effective than the ones I've conducted in the past. An added bonus is that I didn't have to repeat the same information 29 times since I already provided it in the video. Click here to watch.
Published in Blog
Every Friday morning before recess, I select a popsicle stick with a student's name on it, and that child becomes our Student Leader for the following week. This ritual has become a class favorite, and the kids love having the opportunity to perform the various responsibilities of the job, such as leading our morning movement warm-up routine and standing at the door after recess, lunch, and P.E. to greet everyone as they enter the room. I think it's important for children to have meaningful opportunities to develop leadership skills, and I also appreciate the fact that choosing a weekly Student Leader allows kids to have their turn in the spotlight. I set aside a bulletin board in the corner of the room for a certificate and invite each Student Leader to post photographs of family members, friends, trips, and other activities so we can get to know that child on a more personal level.

This past week my students and I found a new way to make the week even more special for the Student Leader. It all started when I picked the stick of a child we will call Tracy, who wears a flower in her hair each day to school. Before I excused the class for recess, I jokingly said that everybody's homework over the weekend was to find a flower and wear it in their hair on Monday as a tribute to Tracy's student leadership.

Sure enough, the following Monday, five kids arrived at school with flowers in their hair. When Tracy saw this, she was absolutely beaming. I made a big deal out of this during our morning circle, and even more kids started wearing flowers in their hair for the rest of the week. Our class mission statement includes a sentence that says we want to go beyond the expectations of a typical 4th grade classroom. I explained that if we could find a way to honor our Student Leader each week, we could make that person feel extra special, and it would definitely be a way for us to surpass typical expectations.

Yesterday, I chose a stick, and as a class, we brainstormed ways we could honor the young man who had just been chosen. We came up with ideas such as wearing blue shirts (because he said he liked wearing blue shirts) and doing something to acknowledge his love of reading and volleyball. It will be interesting what the kids come up with. I'm hoping to keep this idea alive throughout the year because it has such potential to strengthen our teamwork and give everyone the type of individual attention that makes us feel unique and special. 
Published in Blog