Whenever I want to communicate an important academic or behavioral idea to my students, I try to create a visual representation of that idea. Creating a visual reference point makes the idea easier for kids to understand, and it also gives it a sense of permanence because I can review the visual, as needed, over time.            
Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the virtuous cycle that begins once students develop higher personal standards and expect more from themselves. This virtuous cycle has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I have started to discuss the idea more explicitly and more frequently with my students.
In my two previous posts I have emphasized the importance of helping students develop higher personal standards. When kids expect more from themselves, a virtuous cycle begins in which they work harder, produce better work, and receive positive feedback about their work, effort, and attitude. As a result, their confidence and motivation grow. That leads, in turn, to even better effort, and the chain reaction progresses to a higher level.
Last week I wrote that students will make huge strides academically when they begin to expect more from themselves and develop higher personal standards of quality with regard to their work and their behavior. It is wonderful that schools and families talk frequently about the idea of high expectations, but significant progress will occur only when the expectations belong to the children themselves. In this post I share some ideas about how classroom teachers can encourage kids to make this important commitment.
With only five weeks remaining in the 2011-2012 school year, I have begun reflecting on many aspects of the past nine months with my students. The other day I was thinking about the kids who have made large academic improvements and the factors that might best explain these gains. Since September, a couple children stand out in terms of the magnitude of their academic progress. Both come from supportive families who value education, yet both kids started the year working below grade level in at least one subject area. Now they perform at grade level in all areas and often act as important class leaders.
Friday, 04 May 2012 20:10

Sharing Personal Stories (The Chipotle Example)

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Last night I walked into a Chipotle restaurant to order a chicken burrito with lettuce, onions, and cheese. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat my customary two burritos (I work out a lot), but a single burrito just wasn’t going to get the job done. So, I ordered a double portion of chicken and was told it would be about $2.00 extra. No problem, I responded. After the final member of the assembly team completed and wrapped the burrito, he wrote a “C” (for “chicken”) on the tin foil so the cashier would know what I had ordered.
Saturday, 28 April 2012 20:10

Some Benefits of Project-Based Learning

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A couple days ago my students, working in pairs, were using zomes to create three-dimensional representations of buildings and facilities that they would add to our city if they were given an opportunity to do so. The kids chose such ideas as a homeless shelter, animal care center, technology development laboratory, recycling center, and football stadium. (After all, we are in Los Angeles, a city that has been without an NFL team for a long time.) The project represented the culmination of our Geometry Challenge unit, and we will be displaying the structures at our upcoming Open House.
Next week my third graders begin two weeks of state testing. We have been doing a bit of review over the past couple weeks to prepare for the three days of math and three days of language testing that we have here in California. As important as it is to focus on the academic skills that comprise the test, I believe it is equally as important to address the mental and emotional aspects of test-taking with my students.
Friday, 30 March 2012 21:50

Pausing Power

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Two summers ago at the annual Elementary Physical Education Workshop held on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, presenter Pat Vickroy shared a wonderful journal prompt. Last week, I asked my students to respond to the prompt as part of their weekly homework packet. The prompt reads as follows: “If you could give yourself one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?”