Gotcha, You’re Late!

I recently read When Grading Harms Student Learning from Edutopia and re-watched Rick Wormeli’s videos Retakes, Redos & Do-Overs Part 1 and Part 2. Both spoke to the idea of the messages we are sending students when we give them only one chance to do something– whether it be a test, paper, or project– and when we give them a zero or points off for turning something in late:

“This project has no value”

“It’s ok if you don’t learn this”

“You’re off the hook”

Doing these things misdirects our purpose. Miller says in his article, “Is grading the focus, or is learning the focus?”

As educators whose mission it is to inspire and encourage a love of learning, foster grit and resilience, and encourage students to have a growth mindset, is this really what we want to be saying?

 

 

 

More Than Just Music to Their Ears

5146079703_24f8fea201_m“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

I read a fantastic post about how teachers are using Hamilton the Musical in their history classes and it made me think about how I learned. My mother would say she taught me everything I know while singing to me in the bathtub and during potty training. While I may beg to differ on ‘everything’, I do believe that I learned a lot through music: the ABCs, how to spell my full name, the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Ok, the last was not while in the bath, but it was learned on Saturday mornings when Schoolhouse Rock came on in between cartoons.

There are many ways to use music to help boost memory so I thought I would share some sites you can use in your class to help improve your student’s memory for facts, concepts, and details. You can read here and here for more about tips on how to engage your students and improve memory.

  1. Teaching the American Revolution and Founding Fathers? Here is Hamilton, the Musical soundtrack on YouTube
  2. Teaching grammar, history, math? The complete Schoolhouse Rock on YouTube
  3. Flocabulary has a great channel with videos for digital citizenship, Social Studies, English, Math, and more
  4. History for Music Lovers has 53 videos on many historical topics and figures
  5. Harry Kindergarten Music is for the K-2 crowd

There are so many more to find, but why not have your students create songs to help themselves and others learn the way our 4th graders did?!

photo credit: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds via photopin (license)

How Things Catch On: Marketing Your Lesson’s Message

4281814950_7feffddb9d_mI took a great course from Wharton through my favorite online learning site- Coursera. The course was called, “Contagious: How Things Catch On” (currently called “Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content”) and I loved learning something new. However, while it is a marketing course, I think it has applications in education, especially for teachers who are trying to teach lessons and concepts- which is all of us!

One of the questions Professor Berger posed in the course is Why do some messages stick and others don’t? As teachers we can edit this to read, Why do some lessons, topic, concepts stick while others don’t?

There are six principles of “stickiness” that make up the acronym SUCCESs:

1.Simple– “Less is more”

We can apply this idea to our lessons. What is the one idea (maybe two or three max) that you want your students to walk away with today? Use analogies to help relate or compare the idea or concept to something your students already know and understand. Find the core then pull your students in, leave them wanting more tomorrow. Simple opens up a “curiosity gap”.

2. Unexpected– Novel or surprising

We need to make our messages novel or surprising. We need to hold our students’ attention so that they want to find out what happens. If they think they already know what is going to happen, their minds may wander. Add something unexpected to keep their attention and interest. “This is not about doing something crazy, it is about violating expectations.” (Berger, Week 1)

A few years ago we had Judy Willis -educator and neurologist come to speak about brain-based teaching and learning techniques. The principle of making our messages novel, unexpected, or surprising is a brain-based methodology. Information and stimuli need to be selected and accepted by the Reticular Activating System. To get through the RAS, information must be novel, changed or different. If information is not selected by our RAS, it will not reach consciousness and not be retained. To sustain the attention we can use Discrepant Events. D.E. are novel or unexpected so the RAS will let them in; they’re predictive because you already are thinking one way then you throw in a discrepant event and people are curious.

“Once you have their attention, you empower your students to become engaged in their learning process. Using wonder (discrepant events), humor, movement, change, advertising, and provoking curiosity capture students’ attention. They will be ready to focus on the sensory input (information) in the lesson . . . ” Judy Willis

3. Concrete– “Show, don’t tell”

As teachers we can apply this principle of concreteness to our practice. We can use vivid language & images that help students imagine/visualize/see the message we are trying to make stick. The question we should keep in mind is, Can you see it?

4. Credible– Use statistics and information in a WOW way

Just like we can use analogy to help students understand new concepts by comparing them to things they already know and understand, we can share statistical information with our students in comparison to things they already know. For example, we can make a numerical analogy to give large numbers a context, California is larger than the 12 states that make up New England and the Middle States or 20 of Rhode Island (source).

5. Emotional “How can we get people to care about what we are saying?” (Berger Week 1)

The principle of using emotions to help messages stick incorporates concreteness as well. Concrete ideas generate more emotion. The more something pulls us in, the more likely we are to remember it. The more we are able to evoke emotions in our students with the concept or idea we are teaching, the more likely the students will care about and remember what we are saying. So we can do this in many ways. In social studies and history, we can utilize personal accounts, reenactments, experiential learning, and historical fiction  so that we can pull our students into that time in history. If we think about the emotion we want our students to feel then we can design the lesson’s message to evoke that emotion and make the message of the lesson stick.

6. Stories

It is much more interesting to listen a story than to just a list of facts and figures. It also helps with memory because stories often trigger emotions, allow the listener to create images in their head, and make connections to things they already know. Additionally, “stories are easy to retell.” (Fahey)

For some highlights from the course, you can check out my Storify.

How will you use SUCCESs to make your content stick?

photo credit: beautiful bun (Shannon 139/365) via photopin (license)

What Will You Learn Today?


“It’s essential to keep moving, learning and evolving for as long as you’re here and this world keeps spinning”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

paper-1100254_960_720My love affair with learning started way back in second grade when my teacher let me help lead our reading group. She empowered me. I wanted to do well and it was easy because I loved to learn and I had room to do it in my teacher’s class. I was able to progress as far as I could because my teacher allowed me to. I did not have to stop and wait for others.

Flash forward 4 decades (which makes me feel old) and I continue to love learning. In fact, if I don’t know how to do something, I will learn how rather than pass the task or job to someone else. When I began my current position, I was not tech savvy; I was not even tech knowledgeable (if that is even a phrase). But, I took it as an opportunity to grow in a new direction.

One of the ways I love to learn is through Coursera. I have taken four of their courses: Computer Science 101 from Stanford, American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, Contagious: How Things Catch On (now called, Viral Marketing: How to Craft Contagious Content) from the Wharton School, and Introduction to Marketing, also from the Wharton School. Currently, I am deciding between choosing from these Coursera educator courses  or continuing along the business route just because I can.

As educators, it is vital that we both continue our own learning and share this love with our students. We need to show our students it is ok to say, “I don’t know,” and then show them how to ask questions and how to seek out the answers. We need to show them that when we do not know something, we will stop to find out, and will share what we learned when we do.

So, what will you learn today?

CCO Public Domain Image from Pixabay

It’s Time for (#November)Change

4515043369_311a0e502b_mYesterday I had the good fortune to be an attendee at another ItsLearning webinar featuring Alan November. I pretty much jump at any chance I can get to listen to or read something by this great educator.

This week’s webinar was titled, “Putting Pedagogy in the Driver’s Seat”. The big idea and take away from this is that we need to redefine the role of the learners and as teachers we need to shift control to our students. As teachers, we are often the ones who design and deliver problems for our students to solve; we need to teach our students how to ask the right questions, how to find and design their own problems to solve, and how to self-assess.

You can view the Storify here, then we can talk about how we are going to begin letting go of control.

photo credit: Gear Shift, Seat Ibiza (2005) via photopin (license)

What Good Learning Looks and Sounds Like

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
John Dewey

“Give me liberty or give me death” proclaimed a Patriot this morning at our fourth grade debate. The students in our fourth grade classes have been intensely and feverishly preparing for their debates, this class specifically on the merits of diplomacy.

For the past several weeks the students have been learning about the causes of the American Revolutionary War. They were randomly placed on sides of either Whigs or Tories, Patriots or Loyalists and spies were assigned. Lines were drawn -literally drawn down the middle of the room) and so began the immersion in the learning. There was not a teacher reading from a text book nor students regurgitating information. This was a classroom transformed by the chronicle of events to the point that they became these historical characters.

This morning the children shared their learning and understanding of the causes of the Revolution as they debated their side of the argument. Each student argued their point as if they themselves had been alive during those years. The students were not just reading from a script that each had written, they knew their argument because they lived and breathed it these last few weeks.

To say that they did a tremendous job and that they understood the curricular content to be able to take on the role so perfectly is an understatement. It is what good learning looks like; what good learning should look like.