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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Discipline Policy

At-risk students can be some of the most difficult and challenging students to work with. They often exhibit very disruptive behavior, and many times these students do not respond well to authority.

The largest battle intervention teachers will face is discipline.

I have had a great deal of success with the following policy:

ENVIRONMENT
This is one of the first things I consider when students are not acting appropriately. I ask myself these questions:
1.       Is the classroom overly stimulating?
2.       Are my lessons relevant and engaging?
3.       Is this a good seating arrangement?
4.       Can the students do the work?
5.       Is the work appropriate?
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
This is the foundation of my classroom management. I seek out opportunities to provide significant amounts of positive reinforcement.
1.       I give “Good Job” tickets for behavior, academics, and study skills. When giving the ticket, I am specific in my praise. These tickets are drawn for prizes every week.
2.       Continuous encouragement – As I walk through the classroom, I offer students praise.
3.       Tower of Strength – As students master new skills, they get an achievement card to place on our “Tower of Strength.”
4.       Motivational Lessons – I use real-life motivational stories, highlighting character traits, such as perseverance.
5.       Student Data Tracking – Students track their own data, so that they become intrinsically motivated to meet their goals
STUDENT CHOICES
I provide students with 2-3 choices when possible. I ask them questions such as:
1.       Where would you like to work?
2.       Which of these two assignments would you like to work on now?
3.       Would you like to use a pencil or a pen?
4.       Can you work quietly here, or should I choose a spot where you can focus?
5.       Can you work with music on, or is it distracting?
MINI CONFERENCES
When students are not making appropriate choices, I hold a mini-conference with them.
1.       I talk with the student privately.
2.       I ask the student, “What do you think I’m going to say?”
3.       Ask, “What choice could you have made?”
4.       I ask the student to explain the situation.
BUILD STUDENT’S CONFIDENCE
1.       I give them work they can do successfully.
2.       I give genuine praise – not for easy work, but for accomplishments.
BUILD TRUST
I actively work to build the student’s trust in me.
1.       Always give respect.
2.       Always assume the student wants to learn.
3.       Show that I care by:
a.       Going to their extracurricular events
b.      Making their work relevant
c.       Asking them about their day/weekend
AFTER ALL THIS:
If students are not making positive choices:
1.       I let them know that I will be monitoring their behavior.
2.       Student will be given a set number of reminders for the day (3-4)
3.       After the 3-4 reminders, the student will be asked to leave the room to complete a “Behavior Reflection.”
4.       I will discuss this reflection with them.
5.       I will call the parents.
CONSEQUENCES:
Sometimes consequences will need to be given. These should be natural, whenever possible. Some consequences include:
1.       If a student can’t work without disruption, the student will need to work outside the classroom.
2.       If the student has significantly taken away another student’s learning opportunities, he will be asked to come before/after school to “pay back time to the community.”
3.       If a student breaks something, we will seek a solution for the student to replace it.
4.       All school violations will be handled according to the ISMS discipline policy.


RELATED POSTS


Using "The Hunger Games" to Manage Behavior Walk into a Kindergarten class, and you will believe in magic. How one lady manages to get 20 5-year-olds to snake quietly through the halls with only her smile and a charming, "Follow me, boys and girls", is an amazing thing to see.

Classroom Management with At-Risk Students  The root of the word, “discipline” is “disciple,” meaning, “to teach.” When faced with problem behaviors in the classroom, management strategies should be used rather than punishment.

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with "Difficult" Students Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them!

Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

From Fractions to Felonies (Part 1) Juvenile detention may seem like an odd topic for a math blog, but from my perspective, there is a direct correlation. To illustrate this, let's trace the path for a typical juvenile offender backwards.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education....What is the Difference?

Intervention
Remediation
Reteaching
Special Education
Inclusion
Resource

How are these terms different?

My official title is "Intervention Specialist," but most of friends and family refer to me as a special ed teacher. I correct them on this, of course: "I don't teach special ed." But, still they always go back to it. To those outside of education, and even to many in education, these terms are synonymous.
When I remind people I don't teach special ed, I hear:
  • Don't you teach kids with learning disabilities? Some, yes.
  • Don't most of your kids have ADHD? Yes.
  • Isn't ADHD a disability? Sometimes. It can be.
  • Don't many of your kids have dyslexia? Yes.
  • So how is this not special ed?
To understand the difference between all of these, let's compare this topic to a racetrack.

File:Running Track, Par - geograph.org.uk - 143484.jpg


Let's start with Remediation.

File:08913-Perspective Run.jpg

First of all, remediation and reteaching are synonyms, and so I will use these two words interchangeably. The purpose of remediation is to review recently taught skills. This is for students who did not understand a specific topic. This is most beneficial for students who are on grade-level but are struggling with just a few things.

On a racetrack, this is the average runner - some are fast, some are slow, some do not keep a steady pace, some may be gifted athletes, while others are unnatural but exceptionally hard-working. Like any runner, they sometimes need help to stay on track. This help comes in the form of tying a shoe or getting water.

Special Education


Special education is for students with disabilities that significantly impair their ability to access the general curriculum. Resource and inclusion are different concepts that both fall under the heading of special ed. The purpose of special ed is to provide supports for students so that they can receive the same education as their peers. They need accommodations and modifications to make this possible.

Back to our track, these runners could not complete the race without support. These are runners with artificial legs. It would be impossible for them to run without them. The key to understanding special education is accepting that disabilities are life-long, do not go away, and are not the result of laziness. These students will almost always require support.

Intervention


Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below. Reteaching grade-level topics will not help without filling in the missing pieces of math education. In contrast to special education, the need for intervention can go away. With proper intervention, students can replace their missing skills and stay on grade level without further support.


These are runners who are expected to keep up with far, far faster athletes. It is the equivalent of an 8th grade non-athlete stepping into a varsity track meet. These students need foundational training on targeted skills - proper form, breathing techniques, conditioning, pacing, etc.

While these concepts all seem quite similar, understanding the distinctions among them allows us to provide proper support.


RELATED POSTS

Remediation vs. Intervention (In Practical Terms) In a previous post, I discussed how remediation and intervention are different. The difference between these two concepts is so great and so important that I feel it necessary to explain why this difference matters.

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps? The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways: 1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

Easing Parent Anxiety Last year, as our state test approached, my parents' level of anxiety increased tremendously. The closer the date came, the more emails and phone calls I received.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with "Difficult" Students



All of my students are labeled "at risk," meaning they have some characteristic that makes them more likely to drop out of school. Working with these kids is my passion, as is guiding them through compassion and understanding. Though some of their behaviors may be difficult, I know that the behaviors are just their way of communicating something their adolescence can't express.

Here are 15 strategies I have found effective with students who are "difficult."

1. Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them! He worked quietly for twenty minutes longer than usual? Compliment! She spoke in class for the first time? Compliment! Compliment exuberantly. Embarrass yourself with your excessive amounts of praise.

2. Never allow students to see your anger. And by "never," I mean NEVER! Some students will be looking to make you angry. Some know only this response to their behavior. Some may think it's funny. Model for them that you, and you alone, are responsible for your emotions. They cannot make you angry, because you have control of yourself.


3. Address problems early - the sooner, the better. Set your boundaries early, and ensure students understand your expectations. Students will push your boundaries, but you must be diligent in compassionately assuring them that their behavior is unacceptable. 

4. Build authentic relationships with students and families. This is my favorite trick! When I notice a student off-task or being disruptive, I walk over to them and talk to them. I may ask about the picture they're drawing, compliment their clothing, tell them I've missed them since they've been out. More often than not, this opposite-of-what-they-were-expecting response, leads them back on task. Get to know their families early, before the student misbehaves. The families' support of you at home will go a long way in the classroom.

5. Never make a threat you are not prepared to carry out. If you make an outrageous threat, you need to follow through. Otherwise, you will have lost all credibility, and every student will know it. Better yet, don't make threats. It's important that you let students know the consequences for actions, but this conversation should be devoid of emotion. Threats carry power and anger.

6. Never punish a whole class for the faults of a few. Obviously. Nobody likes that. And it will turn the class against you.

7. Model the behavior you expect. Want the students to respect you? Respect them. At all times. In all instances. 

8. Set clear expectations. Think your student knows when the assignment is due? Ask them. Be certain they know. Do your students know how to take notes? Are you sure? Explicitly teach them what you expect.

9. Give students a fresh start every day. When a student drives you crazy, day after day, talk to yourself. Literally, talk to yourself before he comes in. Tell yourself to give this kid another chance. Tell yourself to forget the past.

10. Question why a behavior bothers you. Is the behavior the problem, or is it you? Would this same behavior bother another teacher? Does it matter if the kid is sitting or standing? Does it matter if he listens to music when he works? Why does her eye-rolling drive you insane?

11. Never leave downtime. Occupy EVERY minute of their time in your class. Every single minute! These students have experienced many negative moments in school, so it's essential to balance them with positives. Leaving downtime, without specific limitations, opens the door for poor choices. We want to keep these kids "out of trouble."

12. Spend a significant amount of time teaching procedures, routines, transitions, and expectations. Going over procedures on the first day of school is not enough for these students. Many of them struggle with the discrepancies from one teacher to the next, and little changes can make their life more difficult. Explicitly teach your expectations. Revisit these often.

13. Never allow reasons for a student not to learn. He didn't bring a pencil? Again? Give him one. Every day. No paper? Give her some. Forgot her book? Lend her one. She needs help at lunch? Eat with her. 

14. Do not embarrass them. Some students have been in so much trouble, they even find "private conversations" humiliating. In this case, secretly attach a note to their paper. This allows you to relay information without the student feeling singled out.

15. Have fun and laugh with your students often.


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Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?


Classroom Management with At-Risk Students The root of the word, “discipline” is “disciple,” meaning, “to teach.” When faced with problem behaviors in the classroom, management strategies should be used rather than punishment.


My Discipline Policy At-risk students can be some of the most difficult and challenging students to work with. They often exhibit very disruptive behavior, and many times these students do not respond well to authority. The largest battle intervention teachers will face is discipline.


Easing Parent Anxiety Last year, as our state test approached, my parents' level of anxiety increased tremendously. The closer the date came, the more emails and phone calls I received.

Classroom Management with At-Risk Students

The root of the word, “discipline” is “disciple,” meaning, “to teach.” When faced with problem behaviors in the classroom, management strategies should be used rather than punishment.


Far too often, our at-risk students receive the harshest punishments: the most suspensions, the most expulsions. These students are frequently yelled at by teachers and parents. This approach typically aggravates the problem behavior, and the students and educators sprial into a pattern of problems and punishments. As the punishment increases, the bevaviors increase.

Today, I am talking about classroom management strategies that are effective for ALL students.

From the beginning, my classroom management approach has been holistic and eclectic, encompassing aspects of humanistic, environmental, and behaviorist theories. In each of my new positions, I set my plan in the following way:

1.       Environmental: The first thing I consider is the environment.
        Is my room arranged to allow all members full access?
        Can I easily reach all students?
        Can I float through the room with ease?
        Are there any hidden areas?
        Under the theory of environment, I also consider the emotional environment.
        Do students feel welcome?
        Do they feel like they are valued, important, and contributing members of our community?

2.       Humanistic: My goal every year is to develop students who are confident socially as well as academically, who are comfortable taking cognitive risks, and who are intrinsically motivated to learn.
      Before students are asked to cognitively push themselves beyond their current schemas, it is critical to build significant, meaningful relationships. I begin the year with an emphasis on collaborative learning and community building, so that I can learn about the students individually as well as academically.
                                                 My students feel like Olympic champions!

Before I push them, they know what it feels like to succeed!

       100% Rule: In the beginning of the year, I assign tasks that students can complete successfully, so that they will be encouraged to try again. I call this my “100% rule”: I give
       assignments that ALL students can complete with 100% accuracy, even if I have to differentiate.
       90% Rule: Next, I implement my “90% rule,” so that students learn comfort in making mistakes.
       80% Rule: This is followed by 80%, so that students learn to seek help and ask questions. It is extremely important, though, that these grades are not used as punishment. When learning something for the first time, I never include those grades. The 90% and 80% assignments are used solely for instructional opportunities.
       Frustrational Level: Sometimes, however, it is necessary to provide assignments that are within the students’ frustrational levels. During these times, I acknowledge the student’s
       frustration and provide motivation to persevere.

3.       Behaviorist: The environmental and humanistic approaches encompass the largest portion of my classroom management strategies, but when students don’t respond to these, I look to behaviorist theories. I use the “ABC” approach first to identify any antecedents and functions of the problem behavior. Once antecedents are eliminated or managed, I help students create replacement behaviors. I use behavior reflection forms to help students recognize their choices.


RELATED POSTS

Using "The Hunger Games to Manage Behavior" Walk into a Kindergarten class, and you will believe in magic. How one lady manages to get 20 5-year-olds to snake quietly through the halls with only her smile and a charming, "Follow me, boys and girls", is an amazing thing to see.

      Digitally Illiterate Parents I realized that many of our parents do not have the technology literacy for this type of communication. This made me wonder: What responsibility do we have in educating our families about technology?

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with "Difficult" Students Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them!

My Discipline Policy At-risk students can be some of the most difficult and challenging students to work with. They often exhibit very disruptive behavior, and many times these students do not respond well to authority. The largest battle intervention teachers will face is discipline.

Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps?

In a previous post about learning gaps, I expressed that the key to math intervention is recognizing the need to find students' gaps. All students come to middle school math with at least one puzzle piece missing, but some students have so many missing pieces that it becomes impossible to be successful in math.

The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways:

1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

2. The students are lazy and do not try.

Let's address these two issues before I present my understanding of math learning gaps.

1. Is it true that many elementary teachers are not the best at math? Absolutely! I have known truly fabulous, outstanding teachers who still struggle with multiplication and add with their fingers. And in fact, elementary education is a major of choice for them, because of its lack of rigorous math requirements. Is this the issue? Partly. While many elementary teachers may not be the greatest at math, most still use highly effective teaching strategies, such as the use of hands-on manipulatives, math journaling, and an emphasis on number sense. What does happen, though, is they sometimes teach students "tricks" that later bind them into very rudimentary understandings. Because these tricks work, the students are reluctant to abandon them, even when it is necessary for them to do so.

2. Are the students lazy? I have addressed this issue before, but it is such a prevailing myth, that it should be addressed again. Students do not do math, because they can't do math! I have seen very, very few lazy students - students, who, when given appropriate work, significant encouragement, and adequate support, still won't try.


So, then, if it is not the elementary teacher's fault, and it is not the students' laziness, what is the problem? Why do so many students have these learning gaps?

1. Chronic absenteeism - Many students who fail math miss a significant amount of school. Because math is hierarchical, building upon itself, students who miss only a few days struggle to catch up.

2. Lack of parental math ability - Many parents are unable to help their student at home. Sometimes, a student needs only a few minutes of instruction to complete an assignment. Since their parents can't help them, they have yet another incomplete assignment.

3. ADHD - An overwhelming number of failing students have ADHD. It is difficult for these students to focus, and hands-on manipulatives often aggravate their ADHD. Many teachers are ill-equipped to handle these students, and so they end up focusing on managing behavior, rather than teaching math.

4. Dyslexia - The nation is in a push to increase math rigor, which often translates into "word problems." Increasingly, state assessments, and thus homework assignments, are filled with word problems. Students with dyslexia tend to struggle with many critical math aspects, which are compounded with the addition of written words.

5. Lack of early intervention - The last two decades have seen a significant emphasis on early intervention in literacy. Because of this, very few students enter secondary education without a strong reading foundation. Early math intervention, however, is just entering education, and it will take time before those results are seen in the upper grades.

6. Little flexibility in math curriculums - Teachers typically have a set scope and sequence, with very little flexibility. There are so many new objectives to cover, so there is no time to reteach prior skills.

7. American belief in inherent math ability - The majority of Americans believe that people are born good at math, or conversely, born bad at math. We do not see math ability as an outcome of hard work. Students hear their parents say, "I was not good at math either. She gets this from me." Students believe they are no good, so they stop trying. They do not believe they can ever be good at math.


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The "S-Word" - Don't Call Kids "Smart"! Over the past decade, I've happened across several articles/people/instances urging adults to stop calling children "smart."  They warn that by labeling them "smart," students will become lazy.

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

How Not to Use Technology in the Classroom Technology should be used to engage and enhance, not to distract and ignore.

Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

Gamification One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Motivation

The most important part of any math intervention is finding a way to motivate students so they want to try.

Intuitively, we know that most math teachers were good at math as students, and sometimes it's hard for us to understand how very difficult math can be for many students. Teachers feel frustrated, because they know these struggling students are bright and capable of learning, if they would only try.

What we fail to understand as teachers, is that ALL students have tried, at some point in their life. Most students have tried very, very hard, but after years of faliure, they have given up.

It is human nature to quit things that are hard for us, and it takes a significant amount of perseverance to continue to try and fail, and try and fail. Think about it: When was the last time you spent hours a week doing something you hated? Something that frustrated you to tears? Something that, when you put all your effort into, you still failed?

My students know that I am good at math - but they also know how terrible I am at sports, how little I know about football, what an awful singer I am, and that my moves are nothing like Jagger. They know this, because I show them. I tell them about it. They know the only class I ever failed was 8th grade PE.

I want my students to know that I understand how difficult it is; how hard it is to keep trying; how it feels when people laugh at you.

Here is a story I share with my students:

When I was in elementary school, somewhere in 3rd or 4th grade, we were measured on a set of PE skills: running a lap, hanging from a pole, etc. When it came time to see how far we could throw a ball, I became physically sick to my stomach. I decided, in my great 9-year-old wisdom, to wait at the end of the line, so nobody would see me. As my bad luck would have it, when it was my turn, ALL the students were watching the kids throw the ball. And when I say all, I mean, not just my class, but the whole grade. It took every ounce of courage I had to throw the ball, and I threw it as hard as I could. And, just as in a children's movie, everybody laughed....at me! Of course I don't remember the actual distance of the throw, but I can say with certainty, that it didn't even come close to approaching the other balls. The teacher decided to give me another try, telling me she knows I could do better. So, I tried again, but with a lot more fear and a lot less determination. Over and over, the teacher had me throw this ball, first with words of encouragement, then with frustation, then with yelling. Over and over, I threw that ball, until the teacher, too, gave up. I never came even close to hitting the mark.

What I've learned over the years: there is no amount of yelling, humiliating, understanding "how important this was to my future", or even words of encouragement that would've shown me HOW to throw the ball.


RELATED POSTS

The "S-Word" - Don't Call Kids "Smart"! Over the past decade, I've happened across several articles/people/instances urging adults to stop calling children "smart."  They warn that by labeling them "smart," students will become lazy.

Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

From Fractions to Felonies (Part 1) Juvenile detention may seem like an odd topic for a math blog, but from my perspective, there is a direct correlation. To illustrate this, let's trace the path for a typical juvenile offender backwards.

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education...What is the Difference? Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning Gaps

One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers:

HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM IF HE DOESN'T HAVE HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

In a typical math classroom, all students learn the same thing on the same day. This makes practical sense - it allows for standards to be covered in a timely manner; teachers only need to create one lesson a day. It is very difficult for teachers to manage small groups or individualized lessons.

This type of lesson planning is effective for 80% - 85% of students.

But what happens to the other 15% -20%, who are lacking the significant skills necessary to understand the new lesson?

They sit there BORED, DISENGAGED, CREATING DISTRACTIONS.

Many math teachers (secondary or otherwise) do not know how to help students who are missing major pieces of their math education. Students are sent to tutorials where teachers walk them through the current topic, often holding their hand through each step. Students white-knuckle through, memorizing just enough steps to pass with little understanding of the concepts behind them. They are alcoholics clinging to sobriety, desperate to get through one problem, one quiz, one day at a time. Tutorials are the equivalent of removing liquor from the home. It only pacifies the immediate and does nothing for intervention.

File:Jenga distorted.jpg
We must address the root of the problem by discovering students' specific weaknesses and methodically addressing each gap. Picture math like a Jenga game, with each block representing a major skill.

This math tower begins to build in preschool, as students learn basic counting principles, addition, subtraction, grouping, and measurement. The foundation of their tower is in number sense, basic fact retrieval, computation skills, and an understanding of fractions and decimals.

As students continue through their K-8 math education, their tower becomes enormously tall and complex, but most students are missing at least a few blocks. The lower on the tower these missing pieces are, the more a student will struggle. We continue to add new blocks but do nothing to replace the missing pieces. Tutoring only on the current skills aids the student in adding more blocks to the top. While the tower gets taller, it also gets weaker.

 It is no wonder that by the time a student reaches Algebra I, his tower has already crumbled.



RELATED POSTS

The "S-Word" - Don't Call Kids "Smart"! Over the past decade, I've happened across several articles/people/instances urging adults to stop calling children "smart."  They warn that by labeling them "smart," students will become lazy

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps? The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways: 1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

The Flipped-Then-Re-Flipped Classroom As exciting as flipped classrooms are, the question is always asked, "What about the students who don't have the technology?"

15 Practical Tips for Dealing with Difficult Students Praise often. All the time. With over-the top, ridiculous compliments. Your student completed half an assignment after several 0's? Compliment them!

Motivation The most important part of any math intervention is finding a way to motivate students so they want to try.