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.
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."
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.