Monday, February 23, 2015

Positive Relationship Building Is the Key!

I normally walked home from elementary school, but on a warm, breezy afternoon a note was sent to my teacher. 

It said, "Your father will pick you up in front of the school." 

This was different. My father traveled for business. He spent many days, weeks in Illinois, but we lived in Florida. He was keeping several business ventures going there even after we moved to South Daytona Beach back when I was six. 

The year was 1971, I was 8 years old...this was a day for some reason I have trouble letting go. 

I was excited to see my father. It had been awhile...and cool!... He was going to pick me up! This meant that we were probably also going to get an ICEE or Slurpee...yep! 

We stopped by the nearest 7-11 and picked up a Slurpee and a couple of comic books! favorite. 

The conversation was typical...How was school...ok...what did you do...nothing...or something...or hey I had fun at recess...not really sure...nothing too memorable here until I realized that we were driving away from Daytona toward Ormond Beach...

Not sure why...I asked...

Dad said that he wanted to introduce me to someone...and needed to explain something to me...

That afternoon I learned that my parents were getting a divorce...

Over the years, I attended three elementary schools, two junior highs and two high schools...

It is the reason why I have almost no one in my life who knew me prior to college. (Recently, reconnected with a friend from junior high...thanks to social media).

Now, this is not to lament my past...

The point is, I seemed to be able to focus on school...I have taught kids who couldn't survive the divorce and it has caused them extreme issues of coping with life not just with school....

This is only one example of what can happen to a child while he or she is in school. Somethings are way more destructive, like death or illnesses or addictions or loss of income or generational poverty. What ever the situation it can take precedence...

There are many issues that children face while they are school age. 

Kids are expected to care about why they should want to find x, the significance of Paul Revere's ride, Falukner's, The Bear and knowing that Newton's Laws are worth reciting.

What helps to overcome the concerns of home is the development of positive relationships in school. Sometimes it is only that one personality...that one teacher, administrator, school staff member, or maybe, in my case, a school bus driver who takes time to say...everything ok?

My challenge to you is...with all of the adult issues we have don't forget about the kids. It is easy to get sidetracked. It is easy to forget why we are here...

Your smile... the time you take to talk with the them by name... tell a bad joke, connect through the content or extracurricular activities...become goofy them the cool side of learning...point them in the direction of a wonderful future ...Inspire...Encourage... Push...Challenge....Laugh...

Positive relationship building will see kids through the negative and help them care about their future and the purpose of education. This is the part of our world that is so unmeasurable...and can't really be taught...the adult has to want to interact and work to see the lightbulb go off as the child says...Hey, I get this! 

It is the desire to extract a need or want to know more. There is a saying...not sure who originally said it but..."The kids buy into the teacher long before they buy into the subject or content."

So tell me...if you are struggling...what have you done to reach and connect? 

Positive Relationship building is the key...

(Need some ideas? Check out my podcast interview with elementary principal Hugh Kight. or how about thoughts from first year teacher Mrs. Knight. )

Here are some other blog articles that make suggestions about connecting with the kids...

4 Ways to Start the Year Right 


Getting to Know and Use the Names of the Kids

Smile and say hi! You never know what the impact may be....

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Intentional Vocabulary Instruction: Laura Robb's Big 10

Too often we leave vocabulary development to either chance or tools that do not have a positive impact on expanding kids' knowledge of words and how to use them. 

Take a look at your classes or your school...

How do you help the kids understand the words?
Do you take the time?
Do you have a focused plan?
Is independent reading encouraged?

Look around...could someone walk in your class(es) and know what content you are studying simply by the words that are visible?

Is there any evidence of teaching and expanding content and academic vocabulary?

Do you know how to choose the words that need to be taught?

Have you looked into what we know about text comprehension and vocabulary development?

If you have not thought about this or are new to understanding what tools are effective and why you should use specific tools...

...Check out Laura Robb's:

Vocabulary is Comprehension:Getting to the Root of Text Complexity

In her work, you will find what she calls the Big 10...

1. Promote Meaningful Talk
2. Study Word Parts
3. Attend to Figurative Language and Connotations
4. Situate Words in Various Contexts
5. Use New Vocabulary in Writing
6. Build Concepts
7. Make Connections
8. Tap into Technology
9. Promote Independent Reading
10. Deliver Daily Read-Alouds

In Vocabulary is Comprehension you will discover an explanation of each of her Big 10 as well as lessons designed to support your addressing these areas.

Recently, I had the chance to interview Laura on my podcast. Check out Episode 45: Laura Robb-Vocabulary is Comprehension

Also, check out Laura's website

If the kids don't understand the words, they will not get the content.

Take some time to learn the strategies that will help you help the kids develop deeper word knowledge.

Make vocabulary instruction intentional in your class and school.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Engaging Kids From the Beginning of Class

The opening of class is just like the opening act in a novel.
Something has to happen to grab the attention of the reader or the brain wants to close the book and do something else.

What makes something engaging? 

Is it starting with calling role? 

Waiting while the teacher distributes papers? 

Or does it have something to do with starting class with something…something that ignites  the brain …something that puts it to work and creates that spark that makes some kids go…Hey this is cool!

Check out this video by with Lodge McCammon talking about using music and movement to help the kids get engaged! What a wow way to start class!

Think about your class…

How do you start the time that you have the kids…do you lull them into submission or do you have some question or activity that makes them want to know more?

Here are some resources that may help you with this…

Check out …

Lodge McCammon’s music in the class lessons…

How about…
Chapter 3-Success Starters: Sparking Student Success Right Away in Learning in the Fast Lane by Suzy Pepper Rollins

Listen to Suzy talk about Learning in the Fast Lane on my podcast Episode 43.

Here are other resources:

Listen to Episode 12 of my podcast an interview with Darby Jones talking about Improving Education Through the Arts

Time to get the brains going…spark the flames and add some activity or movement or thought provoking challenges at the beginning of class…

Take the challenge and ask yourself, “So what can I do to get them into the lesson just as soon as class starts?"