District Administration recently published an interesting article on how mindfulness creates kinder classrooms and reduces problematic behaviors by 18%. Click the link and check out their thoughts.
If you’d like background on Mindfulness, check our article published earlier on
How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Class
Students learn best when they are relaxed, happy, and feeling loved. It is challenging to include those characteristics in classes when you are concurrently trying to achieve school goals, comply with curriculum timelines, juggle parent concerns, and blend your lessons with those of colleagues.
This is where mindfulness becomes important. It reminds teachers that the fulcrum for learning is the student’s emotional well-being.
Let’s back up a moment: What is mindfulness? Buddha said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
If that’s the plan, mindfulness is the path. It teaches students how to quiet themselves — get to a place where their mind is settled sufficiently to pay full attention to the task at hand. Experts offer many suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your classroom experience. Consider:
- pause and take a deep breath before beginning an activity or in the middle of performing it
- reflect on an activity as a group
- reflect on the student’s own experiences and background and how that relates to the topic
Delving into these rudimentary steps isn’t the goal of this article. Today, I’ll share five ideas on taking mindfulness to the next level in your classes:
“…repeated, direct assessment of targeted skills in basic areas using materials taken directly from the teaching curriculum”
While CBA is assessment based on the curriculum, it isn’t chapter tests from a text. The latter measures student achievement of a particular set of lesson knowledge while the former measures student achievement of the broader class goals. CBAs are useful not only to measure student learning within a unit but over time toward larger goals.
How does it work
There is no setup required to start using CBA — no website signup or software download. What you will have to do — and may already do — is identify the criterion you are committed to accomplishing with students. These will be beyond what is required of the State or National standards and may or may not align perfectly with the textbooks you use. They are developed by you, likely in conjunction with grade-level teammates and your school administration. They help you identify your goals and the resources required to achieve them and then measure progress toward their completion.
Once these are in place, you devise the assessments — formative and summative — that will provide the evidence of achievement. This is done exactly as you would normally develop assessments during a unit of inquiry to evaluate progress and — at the end of the unit — to evaluate success with one big difference: Curriculum based assessments evaluate progress toward broad learning goals rather than textbook chapters or lesson plans.
You continue to teach classes as you normally would, with lesson plans, projects, and resources aimed to teach critical standards laid out by the school, the State, or the nation. These may be augmented with a scope of criterion — sometimes replaced with a Scope and Sequence or Curriculum Map — to be used as references in measuring learning. Here you will carefully identify the criterion CBA will use to provide and measure evidence of learning. These can be 1) measured against what is expected (called “benchmarks”), or 2) measured against prior assessments.
As we struggle with adapting our classes to remote learning, I know lots of teachers who are realizing that their normal approach isn’t suited for remote teaching. They need to come up with a transformative tool that will reach students more comprehensively, more rigorously, more granularly online. Here are thirteen accepted pedagogical teaching strategies with proven records of success. Read through them then think how they might be applied to solve the problems you’re having with online teaching. For more information, click the link:
DoK is not a taxonomy (like Bloom’s). Rather, it itemizes ways students interact with knowledge.
Frayer Model uses a graphical organizer that asks students to describe words by much more than a memorized definition.
In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.
In the face of mounting evidence, education experts accepted a prescriptive fact: student success is not measured by milestones like ‘took a foreign language in fifth grade’ or ‘passed Algebra in high school’ but by how s/he thinks. Habits of Mind lists sixteen of these.
Orton-Gillingham is not a packaged curriculum, rather a prescriptive program designed for each individual student. The O-G teacher incorporates phonology and phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax and semantics into a personalized methodology
John Dewey suggested the education focus be switched to students when he introduced “learning by doing”, today referred to as Project-based Learning (PBL).
Constructivism is a student-centered philosophy that emphasizes hands-on learning and active participation in lessons. Constructivists believe that learning is an active process so the most effective way to learn is through discovery. With hands-on activities, learners actively create their own subjective representation of objective reality. Because new information is blended into prior knowledge, the result is – of course – subjective, heavily dependent upon the personal lens of each learner. That, in turn, is dependent upon their society, culture, past knowledge, personal experiences, and more.
Learning is constructed, not acquired, and is based on the fullness of a person’s individual lifetime of learning. It is continuously tested as new ideas are added, either causing long-held beliefs to evolve or be replaced.
Constructivism is not a pedagogy or a theory. It is a mindset — a way of thinking used to guide learners.
I first ran into Behaviorism in child psychology classes I took for my Early Childhood Education credential (ECE). It was developed by a renowned psychologist named John B. Watson and formed into the Theory of Behaviorism by another famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner. The technical definition they provide is:
“…scientific and objective methods of investigation concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors; all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment.”
They used the infamous example of Pavlov’s Dogs. No surprise, with this gobbledegook definition that used dog training as the example, I laughed, rejected it, and then forgot it.
Fast forward a decade, to a time when I was studying for my teaching credential. One of my classes reviewed education pedagogies such as Purpose-driven Learning, the Socratic Method, Depth of Knowledge, Unschooling, and Behaviorism. Applied to education, Behaviorism focuses on:
“… conditioning student behavior with various types of reinforcements and consequences…”
I still cringe at words like “conditioning” and “consequences”, but in the fullness of the class, I came to understand that whether teachers know it or not, they use Behaviorism as an effective, reliable teaching tool. I’ll get back to that later but first, I want to deconstruct how a theory that started with training dogs is now a cornerstone in education pedagogy.
Summer is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what’s been changing in the ed world while you were teaching
eight ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read that I want to share with you but first:
A comment on the selections: I did get more suggestions than I could possibly list so I focused on books that were positive and uplifting rather than dark and foreboding. Yes, there is a lot wrong with education around the world but I wanted a selection of books that would send me — and you — back to teaching in the fall with a can-do attitude for how to accomplish miracles with your next class of students.
Having said that, here’s a granular list of teacher-approved books to keep you busy this summer:
by Eric C. Sheninger
Digital Leadership defines a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture. It takes into account recent changes such as connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization of learning to dramatically shift how schools have been run for over a century.
by Clayton M. Christensen
Selected as one of Business Week’s Best Books on Innovation in 2008, Disrupting Class is filled with fascinating case studies, scientific findings, and insights into how managed innovation can unleash education. As important today as it was a decade ago, Disrupting Class will open your eyes to new possibilities and evolve your thinking. For more detail, read my review, Disrupting Class.
Last year, only 61 percent of students who took the ACT high school English achievement test were deemed college-ready. In math, it was even worse — only 41 percent. Without doubt, we teachers recognize this as a problem but what do we do about it? An option several school districts I converse with are trying is called “mastery-based learning” — MBL. When I read this article about it, I got pretty excited. This could be a solution, if not for all students, at least for those who don’t excel under traditional teaching.
What is MBL
Also known as “competency-based learning” or “proficiency-based learning”, mastery-based learning is described by The Glossary of Education Reform as:
“a system “of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting … based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.”
Learning is personalized, based on school standards. Students who don’t understand a topic and don’t do well on the summative assessment for that subject, aren’t automatically moved on because time allotted for that topic ran out. Instead, they are given additional support and then retested until they have the skills to move on to the next stage.
Purpose Driven Learning (or PDL) is a concept coined by Michael Matera and Adam Moreno to summarize the philosophy that each learner’s inner strengths can be unlocked by focusing with purpose and drive. By following the guidelines for Purpose Driven Learning, teachers avoid the biggest pitfall in many lesson plans — that they are theoretic without meaning in the real world. With PDL, resources are relevant, lessons are personalized, and real-life connections are placed under a bright light. In the end, learning is changed from pedantic to powerful and students learn to reliably connect academic studies to the world outside the schoolhouse.
The Goal of PDL
In a phrase:
…the goal of Purpose Driven Learning is NOT about a curriculum that lasts a year. It’s about creating life-long learners who fuel their future passionately with knowledge.
This applies to both 1) education pursued with the goal of college or career, and 2) the critical preparation of students to succeed in life. Purpose Driven Learning, faithfully delivered with buy-in from students, will result in students willingly participating in even the boring lesson pieces (like worksheets or podcasts) as well as exciting applications like simulations and student-devised projects.
Problems implementing Purpose Driven Learning
Engaging PDL in your classroom is seen by some as teaching students what they want to learn at the expense of what they need to learn but this isn’t true. Done right, students come to understand that real knowledge relies on a solid foundation of data upon which they build their personal interests. For example, students who want to join America’s proposed Space Force must first be grounded in the basics of science and math.
Educators who wish to use PDL often run into three roadblocks:
School Standards. Because state and national standards are often devised to serve the majority of students, they may not well-serve your students. But they do provide a necessary foundation without which the goals of your particular group can’t be met. That means that standards are taught first and additional learning is scaffolded afterward. Standards are in fact the foundation that underpins your students’ ability to achieve their PDL goals.
Personalized learning is the latest buzzword in an education environment bursting with new ideas but this one is impressive. In a sentence, personalized learning:
“tailors instruction, expression of learning, and assessment to each student’s unique needs and preferences.” — ISTE
If you think it sounds like differentiated instruction, it does with this caveat: Personalized learning is student-directed, student-paced, and designed for each learner.
Why switch to personalized learning?
There are many reasons to take a deep dive into personalized learning. Some schools realize students aren’t learning to their full potential. They see this not just in test results but in student response to the grade-level curricula. They feel it is unrelated to what happens to them outside of school. We as teachers know that math and science can easily be taught using real-life experiences in lieu of a textbook. The problem in the past has been convincing our learning partners of that truth. Now, anecdotal evidence shows that well-delivered personalized learning encourages excitement about learning, improves test scores, and leaves students wanting to learn even complicated math and science topics.
One of the strategies I grew to appreciate in my several decades of teaching was starting my class with a warm-up. A tangible transition between the previous class (or recess) and mine seemed to orient students to my topic and make the entire class go more smoothly. For me, because I taught what is called specials or pull-outs (I taught technology), I did this at the beginning of a class period. When you do this at the beginning of the day, it’s called not a warm-up but a morning meeting.
What is a Morning Meeting
Morning meetings are a time when students and teacher gather together, usually in a circle, for an organized start-of-day activity. They can be as quick as fifteen minutes or as long as thirty. You determine this based on what students need to start their day as lifelong learners. Some days are quick; others, not so much. That’s OK. In fact, it’s good to be flexible with the schedule and responsive to student needs. They learn faster when you’re listening to them and come to believe they are worthy. As such, they begin to believe in themselves.
Goals of a Morning Meeting
The broad purpose of a morning meeting is to transition students between home and school, to greet them as you would a guest in your house. It’s an informal way to re-acquaint everyone with each other and with the classroom ecosystem. Think of it on par with a family dinner, where parents and children come together in a relaxed environment to do something everyone enjoys. You start by welcoming students, reviewing the day’s activities, discussing changes in the classroom, meeting new students, celebrating the accomplishments of classmates, and anything else that benefits from a whole-group meeting.