Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cultivating The Hidden Curriculum--Fortitude

Teachers wear many "hats" in the classroom.  As we become more and more comfortable with curriculum, instruction and assesssment, those "hats" start to change and look different.  We start to develop what might be called, "our hidden curriculum".   The hidden curriculum may be thought of as something that is indirectly cultivated by teachers or a school that is not written down or articulated in any book or manual.  Our hidden curriculum is often embedding in our teaching philosophy.  Over the years I have spent a lot of energy ensuring students learn to "never give up", as evidenced in this video clip.

Schools often make it difficult to help students learn to never give up.  One popular and arguably damaging practice related to instilling a "never give up" attitude is the zero policy.  That is to say, teachers will establish due dates, time lines and late policies for assignments and then penalize students when they don't meet these deadlines, which may ultimately lead to giving a score of zero on the assignment.  This assessment practice has grave consequences.  Instead of teaching the student the lesson of responsibility, it often teaches them that giving up is okay.  Douglas Reeves wrote an excellent article about assigning a zero to student work; you can view it here.  What strategies could we adopted to build fortitude in students?

1.  Never Give a Zero-  if students fail to hand in assessments in a timely manner, have them come in at lunch until they finish what you have given them.  If the purpose of the assessment is to gather information about the student to see where they are at and where they need to go, then giving it a zero is counter productive to moving students forward in their learning.
2.  Give assignments that enable students to try more than once- Students need to be able to practice what we teach, learn from their mistakes without fear and punishment, reflect and grow.  The best way to do this is allow them multiple attempts.  E-assessments can afford the opportunity for many attempts at certain types of assignments so that students can try again without overwhelming the teacher with a huge workload.

In the end, teachers should be doing all they can to build success in student's.  As we all know, success builds confidence.  "May the Force be With You"!

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's A Small World

Margaret Mead once said, ""Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  

With more and more citizens around the world having access to internet, small groups of people are starting to collaborate, share, reflect and learn from each other to change the world.  As educators, we should feel more and more obligated to provided opportunities for our students to connect with others beyond the text in a book.  Instilling international understanding and intercultural awareness is no longer just the social studies teachers job.  It is my belief that global education should permeate through all subjects.  Here is a video clip of how teachers might get started:

The sites I recommend in this video are listed below.

1.  Epals-
2.  IEARN-
3.  Take It Global-
4. Teachers without Borders-

Here are some more Global Education sites-

5.  The Global School House- 

6.  Flat Classroom Project-

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Learning Fun

In many places around the world, the pressure of doing well on standardized tests has taken the fun out of education.  Yet, making something fun can often motive people to work harder, as evidenced in this video clip.

One of my favorite books as a beginning teacher was The Laughing Classroom, by Dianne Loomans and Karen Kolberg.  In their book they advocate several quick and easy strategies to keep the fun in learning and motivate students to work hard.

Over the years, I have also come up with my own games or strategies that I have adapted from television shows.  Here are some of my favorite strategies to keep learning fun;

1.  The homework game- near the end of class I would ask for 5 volunteers to play a contest.   The contests would vary depending on the day: rock-paper-scissors, shoot the ball of paper into the garbage can, bowling, name that tune, etc.  If the student beat me at the contest, I would take one question off their homework assignment.

2. The Mystery Bag- I used this strategy at the start of class, as a set induction technique.  In an old pillow case, students would have to stick their hand into the pillow case and try and guess the item without looking.  If they were correct I would bring the item out of the bag.  Items in the bag would be related to the topic of lesson.  Once all items were identified, we would discuss how these items were related to the lesson.

3. Jeopardy Auction Game-before a major quiz or test, we would play an electronic game of jeopardy (see this site to build your game).  Students can earn monopoly money for each correct answer.  Then, close to the end of class, I would have small prizes that could be purchased with then fake money they won during the game.

4. Spin the Wheel Review-I build a spinning roulette wheel like the one in the picture.  Then I place review questions and small prizes on the wheel.  I ask for students to come up and stand by the wheel.   I give it a spin, when the wheel stops, students answer the question that is pointing to them, if they are correct, they get the small prize.  There is an option to ask for help from the audience but then they must share the small prize.