Posts Tagged engagement

Recharging classroom joy with techniques from Quantum Learning

Teachers need techniques. There is no shame in a new teacher adopting a great lesson plan from a generous master teacher. The sharing of “best practices” is a common activity at staff meetings. As so many veteran teachers will admit, some of their best ideas were “borrowed” from colleagues. It’s what teachers do – brag about a great unit they just taught, helpfully hint at a classroom management strategy that a colleague might need, and refresh their dwindling enthusiasm at the pool of shared experience and creativity.

In San Diego County, educators, schools, and students have the good fortune to be located near the home office of a dynamic education company that offers its own well of energetic, inspired ideas: Quantum Learning. This is not an advertisement; this is a testimony. Quantum Learning uses brain research to inform its instructional methodology. They also offer brain-based methods for learners via summer camps. But that sounds so dry. Really, the impact of what Quantum Learning delivers in its teacher workshops and camps can best be conveyed by a description of a Quantum Learning-infused classroom.

Imagine a classroom filled with color and light – a cozy lamp, a bright tablecloth – and posters displaying positive messages such as “Today became great when YOU arrived.” Listen – there is music playing, upbeat as you enter the room and soothing as you work. There’s a teacher who gets the class up and moving at frequent intervals, using body motions, choral response, and visual cues to engage kids and help them remember concepts. Notes are taken in color with picture drawing encouraged, and students whose brains don’t work in a linear mode are taught mind-mapping instead of traditional notes. Life skills are imparted along with academics – keys such as “Failure leads to success” encourage kids to see their efforts as building blocks towards success when they struggle. Kids start class charged up and ready for learning and leave class with concrete knowledge about what they know and don’t know and how to move forward.

It is difficult to share the techniques with a colleague who has never “been to the well” – to outsiders, it seems gimmicky, perhaps even cultish. But teachers who have attended a Quantum Learning workshop and tried the strategies in their own classroom know how powerful they can be. These days, with tight budgets limiting the acquisition of expensive toys like smart boards and individual student laptops, our schools are more in need than ever of good strategies that help kids learn, make school a positive, energetic, attractive place, and infuse joy back into the teachers’ efforts.

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Two For One

Thank you Teacher World for your flattering post!

I have shared with you that I spend time in the mornings reading positive, uplifting, and motivational materials that help jumpstart my day, and I am going to pick the best of these that can be applied to education in some way and share them with you on a regular basis. I hope that these bring some laughter, some deep thought, some happiness, and some positive reaction from all of you. These aren’t very deep, but they are fun. So, without further ado, here is another great saying.

* “It is okay to try and fail and try and fail again, but it isn’t okay to try and fail, and fail to try again!”

Oh, I love that, don’t you? Isn’t this a perfect message for students about not giving up until they get it right? For that matter, isn’t it a great message for teachers, too? I loved this quote from the moment I heard it, and I proudly display it in my classroom and talk about it at the beginning of every year.

I can’t take credit for this wonderful quote, so where did I get it? About six years ago my school system sent several teachers to the best training program I have ever had the opportunity to attend. It is called Quantum Learning, and I would highly recommend this program to all teachers. What is the premise behind this training? According to its website, “Quantum Learning for Teachers programs empower educators to create joyous, engaging and successful learning – turning their classrooms into optimal learning environments”. We learned countless teaching strategies and moves that are based on brain research. One of the best techniques I learned, circuit learning, is a technique that incorporates repeated exposure to facts in a manner that moves information from your short term to your long term memory without memorization. It works, and I use it every year!

So, today you got a two-for-one; a great saying and a little commercial for a great teacher’s program you and your school system might want to consider taking. Enjoy!

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The Quantum Learning Tenets

The Tenets are important concepts or guiding principles that are basic to the Quantum Learning system. These ideas are woven throughout the fabric of the system, and as a result will be rediscovered in many applications and strategies. The Tenets are specifically designed to improve our practice in the classroom by directing our focus. We recommend that you post them in a place where you will see them on a regular basis.

The first Tenet is “Everything Speaks.” This concept reminds us that everything we do in the classroom sends a message to students. The way we greet students first thing in the morning or at the beginning of a class sends a message. The way we handle an incorrect response from a student given in front of peers sends a message. Our Environment, the Atmosphere we create, the Design of our lesson delivery or educational tasks, how we dress, the way we listen, or the character traits we model all send messages to our students. By being constantly aware of this important principle we tend to be more deliberate and proactive in orchestrating the messages students receive. This helps us better manage the variables that contribute to an optimal classroom atmosphere and learning environment.

“Everything is on Purpose” is the second Tenet and it follows logically from the one before it, “Everything Speaks.” If everything speaks, then it follows that we want to be purposeful with everything we do in the classroom to get the desired outcome. A focus on the Tenet, “Everything is on Purpose”, encourages a greater awareness of all the variables that influence learning. It is this Tenet that helps us to begin to see our role in the classroom differently. We are not in the classroom to dispense knowledge – we are there to orchestrate learning. We are striving to get masterful in this orchestration, and even small variables and details become important to us.

“Experience Before Label” is an important principle that influences our lesson design and delivery. It means that we involve students in an experience or elicit an experience that they can relate to before we attempt to attach it to any symbolic language or label. From a scientific perspective we are creating schema or a new neural network in the brain before attaching the label. It can also mean that we move the students to inquiry where they are seeking the label or concept before we give it to them. For example, a math teacher may involve students in a real-life situation in which they are trying to solve a problem but having difficulty based on what they already know. They may begin to look for a new formula or principle to help them accomplish the solution. This state of inquiry or searching would be an ideal time for the teacher to introduce the new concept, and this process would be called “Experience Before Label.” In a literature class a teacher may have students experience writing from a talented author before introducing the literary concept of mood. A science teacher may have students experience or observe the laws of motion before actually labeling them.

Experience Before Label is about creating a teachable moment. It is about getting students emotionally involved and questioning with questions such as Why? When? Where? What? How? The word label in this principle refers to the information we want students to learn – the facts, the formulas, the new terms, the sequence, the reasons, etc. When we design our instruction using “Experience Before Label,” we are using a brain-considerate strategy that attaches the learning to previously established schema, evokes proper emotional learning states, maximizes the use of inquiry, and bridges the content to the students’ world.

The “Acknowledge Every Effort” Tenet places a strong emphasis on reinforcing effort in the classroom. By acknowledging effort the professional educator places a strong focus on effort. This focus on effort has many benefits in the educational arena. By acknowledging effort and creating a focus on effort we help our students to know that we consider good consistent effort the hallmark of a good student.

One very significant benefit with a focus on effort relates to our students’ self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is our students’ concept of what they are capable of accomplishing and relates to their views of their own abilities.When we define a student as one who gives good consistent effort we are asking the student to do something he or she can do. This is because effort is a choice. Even though some students may not be able to compete with the student sitting next to them in achievement scores, they can choose to give effort, and if effort is the sign of a good student then they can consider themselves good students. By asking students to give good consistent effort we are asking them to do something they know they can choose to do. How satisfied would you be as a professional educator if all your students did was give 100% effort? Most of us could live with that!

The last Tenet is “If It’s Worth Learning It’s Worth Celebrating.” These celebrations occur inside the student and are orchestrated by the professional educator. It is the good feeling students have about their own progress and their contributions to the learning of others. It includes the joy, excitement, and passion for learning that permeates the classroom atmosphere. It includes the positive acknowledgments the students receive for their effort and participation. It may be enhanced by such things as small as a comment by the teacher expressing appreciation for accomplishment or by an entire group joining together in a cheer, a special event or a rewarding activity. It should be an ongoing and consistent principle operating in the classroom. It reinforces motivation and the message, “This is important.

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How Do We Fix Our Schools?

When CNN asked How Do We Fix Our Schools,  Mark Reardon, QLN COO,  had a strong answer:

It’s about teacher competence. It’s always been about teacher competence. Although teachers attend and graduate from a teacher program, for the most part they are inadequately equipped to facilitate learning with today’s kids in today’s world; a world of technology, graphics, multi-tasking, quick information “sound bites”, and relationships. Kids are immersed in a world of instant connectivity, instant gratification and advanced visual stimulation. These characteristics impact students’ attention spans requiring teachers to rethink and redesign the learning environment and the way students learn the content.

With the growing implementation of value-added analysis, the statistics are undeniably clear– teacher competence is a significant contributor to the quality of student learning. This is not a new belief. We’ve intuitively known this for decades. The analyses now prove it. It’s about teacher competence. How to fix that? Implement teacher residency programs modeled after the medical profession. Teacher competence is enhanced by consistent and frequent interactions with master teachers. These master teachers impart best educational practices and partner with the teacher-in-residence to ensure competence.

It’s about student competence. The unfortunate and disproportional emphasis on standardized tests as the sole determinant of student achievement has misguided our educational efforts. Tests on standards are important to show content mastery. The missing ingredient is the teaching of critical thinking to boost students’ competence in approaching, analyzing and finding solutions to real-life problems. The direct orchestration of business, political, social and scientific experiences that immerse students in the complexity of today’s problems creates milieu in which critical thinking and collaboration grows.

It’s about character. There is an undeniable connection between character and content mastery. Teachers spend a considerable amount of time addressing character–effort, choices, and responsibility–for they know that the development of our character is the foundation to achievement. Character development is a conscious and deliberate act. It is not left to chance. Building the culture of the classroom upon character traits sets a strong foundation for a healthy learning environment. Kids feel safe and respected as they improve the quality of who they are. Additionally, character traits can be developed as they emerge within content–literature, social science, science, and/or math. Through the lens of character traits, students see the connection character has on other people’s as well as their own attitudes, choices and actions.

It’s a daunting endeavor to “fix” our schools. No one solution is the answer. The passion and commitment of educators to do what is effective for their students is a great place to start.

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Talking To Your Children

Here is a great article!Talking with Your Children about School

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Put Downs Go Up In Flames by The McPherson Sentinel

Eisenhower Elementary School students saw their negative thoughts, comments and actions go up in flames Friday.   Eisenhower third through fifth-graders wrote put downs on paper to be burned during the ceremony. The school’s head custodian, Al Ortego, then burned, and extinguished the put downs in a brief but powerful ceremony.
Put downs are negatives comments students say to one another or about one another.  Burning the put downs is part of the school’s bullying philosophy that if a student does not have anything nice to day, they don’t need to say anything at all said Eisenhower third grade teacher Kari Moddelmog.
The lesson also goes along with the district’s new 8 Keys of Excellence, which is part of the Citizenship, College and Career Ready initiative.  The second key, speak with good purpose, teaches students to make positive comments to one another.   By burning the put downs, the negative thoughts and comments student have heard or said “will be gone forever, never to be said or thought about again,” Moddelmog said.

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Bet The Digital Farm On Education Online

“Teachers cannot and will not be replaced by technology — but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by teachers who do. It will be far more productive and far less frustrating if we as educators change our attitudes toward technology rather than try to change our students’ attitudes toward it. Information technologies are here to stay.”

-Doug Johnson

I just got that quote from a conversation between me and a few other educators in the back of a room full of students.

OK, actually, the quote is from a conversation I am having online with dozens of educators from around the world, the classroom we are in is actually a live video feed of a session in Doha, Quatar at the 2009 Flat Classroom Conference, and the students in front of the camera are watching/listening/interacting with Thomas Friedman, who is being video-conferenced in for the students from Washington, D.C.

I? I am in my bathrobe, in my house, in California. Compared to how I grew up learning, one word comes to my mind:

Insane!Flat Classroom

I mean, what?! This all blows my mind in such an exciting, revolutionary, so-right-for-the-times kind of way.

I know, I know, this tech has been in use for years. And I have used webcams and instant messaging and seen conferences online before, but something this morning about seeing these kids get excited and involved in this dynamic – it was like watching what we need to be doing with our schools. Compared to how I grew up learning in the classrooms in which I was a student, this is, um… modern? Current? What matters to kids now?

It just really brands in my brain the fact that we educators must go to where they are – the “they” that are the reason we got into education in the first place. We must fully embrace their daily experience, one of which is technology. We want the future to be positive so we work with kids to prepare them to be their best in it, but when we do that and do not use and learn about the tools of the present and future, we are throwing a big fat parking brake on their education, their rate of learning, and the future because we are teaching them in the context that we are familiar with, not them.

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