Showing posts with tag behavior Show all posts >
How can we build better readers? What should we be doing to ensure each student leaves the classroom able to read better than they did when they arrived? Teachers are plagued by these questions. Even when teachers are highly prepared and expertly understand the strategies for reading improvement, learners may disengage. With limited instructional time and the added pressures of today’s classrooms, teachers need effective student engagement strategies along with appropriate instructional strategies for reading improvement.
Guided oral reading, for example, is a highly effective instructional strategy for improving reading. But engaging all students with sufficient guided oral reading opportunities is a daunting and difficult thing to do. Students who do not read well are often clever enough to find ways to avoid reading in front of their peers. I know from personal experience that students paired together may sometimes “cheat,” letting the stronger reader do all of the reading while the struggling reader listens. Too often, the students who need it most simply do not get the daily reading practice they need to grow their skills.
Reading comprehension—the entire aim of reading—requires active engagement. Too often students read a text purely with the intent of moving through it and completing the assignment. The purpose of reading for learning and discovery is lost to them. Students need to be drawn into the text. They need to use their background knowledge, to make predictions, to concentrate on details and hold information in their minds. The reading practice needed to realize improvement cannot be a passive activity.
Picture for a moment an engaged classroom working on a reading lesson. We would see every student participating, each one of them focused on learning. We’d see body language reflecting their mental participation and physical responses as they learn. We would also hear them asking questions and getting excited about what they were reading. A zealous vibe would be palpable. When we feel that excitement in a classroom we know that our instructional strategies are working to help students learn.
So what can we do, as teachers, to help our students engage?
Self-esteem is built through engaged, dedicated effort that yields results. Our focus needs to be on ensuring participation, motivation, and excitement around reading for every student.
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Categories: Reading & Learning
So it is only October and the buzz and excitement of starting a new school year has already fizzled. Life is a little boring, the holidays seem too far away, you are more tired than usual, and you are having a little trouble getting enthusiastic about your job or your children’s upcoming book reports and science projects, or whatever. What’s going on? Of course you know, burn-out.
What exactly is burn-out? Does it come from working too hard, not being appreciated? Perhaps, but from the standpoint of the brain, burn-out occurs when motivation declines. The human brain is designed to keep motivation levels high for activities we need to survive, those that are very rewarding, and those that involve novelty. Hence we are usually very motivated to escape a dangerous situation, eat chocolate cake and watch a new movie we just purchased. We tend to associate reward and novelty with play and leisure – video games, a golf or tennis match, watching a new TV show or a sports event, playing a new board game, or visiting a new vacation spot – even though we might work very hard at those activities. Rarely do you hear avid golfers complain about golf burnout. But you also rarely hear CEOs talk about being burned out. They may retire to relieve the stress of their job or spend more time with their family, but rarely do they complain about their workload or burnout. Why not? Because the excitement of a new round of golf and the reward that might come from winning or achieving a greater profit margin motivates the golfer and the CEO. However, when your daily life becomes repetitive, unexciting or non-rewarding, motivation decreases. Burn-out is really the symptom of a brain that has lost its motivation. And motivation declines when two important aspects of life are missing – earned reward and novelty.
So, what can you do about burn-out? The answer actually comes from neuroscience research. Whether your burn-out is associated with a job in or out of the home, the solution is not to work less and play more (because poverty is not very rewarding). Rather, the solution is to turn work into play. And the way to do that is to imbue your day with novelty and challenges where there is an expectation of reward.
Reward thyself: If your work is not very rewarding or your boss is not good at showing appreciation, one important key to avoiding burnout is to build in self rewards for a job well done. Each morning, next to your to-do list, make a “reward when completed list”.
Keep it new: If a job largely involves repetitive routines, try to come up with something new to add.
Delay gratification: Make your work schedule its own reward by scheduling your most boring task first each day and your favorite task last so all day you are looking forward to the activity you enjoy the most.
Finally, build in healthy brain-building activities to your week. A happy brain is a brain that is thinking, creating, planning, solving, and learning new things. Schedule activities outside of work that make you feel good about yourself and keep your mind sharp:
To learn more about the brain, view our free recorded webinar!
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In my five years in the classroom, I was often the teacher who wrote the least amount of discipline referrals in the school. Some of my colleagues would say it was because of the students I taught (mostly advanced classes, with roughly half of the students being classified as gifted), to which I responded that talented kids are just as capable at problem behavior as traditional students. They just tend to misbehave in more creative ways.
The real reason for my lack of paperwork was that I could usually relate to why a particular student was acting out and tried to address the problem at the source. I credit that approach for a lot of the success I experienced in the classroom.
As anyone who has spent more than five minutes with a middle school student would tell you, the cause was usually a lack of self-discipline. I simply did not see how getting a student suspended from school would solve a student’s lack of self-control.
Why the traditional approach no longer works
To me, the traditional approach of working up a discipline ladder that usually ended with a suspension was contrary to what most of these children actually needed. Think about it. A kid lacks the social skills to be successful in a class group, so we’re going to make sure he gets less practice in working within the class by sending him home.
Let’s face it: society is providing us with more and more students that simply are not prepared socially to be successful in the traditional classroom setting. Debating the causes of this situation is outside the scope of this article, except to say that the role of the modern teacher is now equally defined by social as well as academic instruction.
The social skills that these students lack, and which we fail to address through traditional discipline, are skills that will haunt them throughout their lives. They will not “just grow out of it”. The same skill deficiencies that affect their success in school will affect their success in the workplace, if they make it that far.
So what do we do?
Instead of blaming society for forcing us to be parents to these children, we should embrace the role. Because, frankly, we don’t have a choice. It’s easier to change a classroom than change a society. We need to recommit ourselves to empowering students rather than entering in a power struggle with them.
Just as parents would, we should provide more social opportunities for students. The days of “sit down quietly and copy the notes on the board” are over. That approach just invites more anti-social behavior. Give them opportunities to help and be helped. Embrace a classroom culture of ideas and sharing. There are wonderful, restorative practice ideas on how to make this happen in the Further Reading section down below.
My most important tip: just listen. We all have our least-favorite students, and there are hundreds of things we would rather do than talk to them, which is where the majority of referrals come from. But just hearing their perspective on things could yield the largest return on investment of anything you do all year.
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When it comes to dynamic, busy environments, today’s school classroom is one of the busiest. Most teachers must manage upwards of 25 learners, sometimes 30 or more, and help them all move together towards specific learning goals. In such environments, academic ability is only one part of the equation determining a student’s ability to function and succeed. The rest depends to a significant degree upon aspects of temperament, such as whether the learner is an introvert or extrovert.
Extroverts – simply because they are outgoing, social, and talkative – tend to be more visible to their teachers and classmates. They shine brightly. They are often natural leaders and may be the first ones to raise their hands and speak up with quick answers. While such a desire to interact is an excellent asset, it can also result in responses that are not fully thought through. The extrovert might be the first one to enthusiastically jump into a project, but may do so before gaining clarity on direction and goals. But when it comes to staying energized to learn, interacting with others gives them a real, palpable boost.
But what about introverts? Because they can be quiet in a bustling group setting, they may not be as visible to their teachers and classmates. However, they bring much to the table. In fact, the introverts’ perspective has the potential to bring quiet leadership and methodical perspective to the classroom dynamic that – if we’re not tuned in to it – can go untapped. The more we can understand their outlook on the world, the more effectively we can implement strategies to nurture their strengths.
Often described as having sensitive temperaments, introverts need to find comfortable ways into stimulating social situations. In classrooms, such students take their time to get acclimated to new settings or new people. They might not speak up in large discussions, but they work well on their own and often excel in small groups. Unlike extroverted individuals, introverts recharge by taking quiet time to process their experience away from the group. Their reflectiveness can be a significant strength, taking learning deeper.
According to neuroscience researcher and psychoanalyst Marti Olsen Lany, Psy.D., there is a biological basis for the differences between introversion and extroversion. She explains that the dopamine that our brains produce in situations like parties tends to give extroverted people a pleasurable feeling. In introverted people, on the other hand, the same stimulation can create a sensory overload.
Is one type more common than the other? Education Week reports that 50 percent of us are extroverts and 50 percent are introverts – an even split. Thus, the essential question for educators to consider is how can we help harness the hidden strengths of both kinds of students in the same learning environments?
So, how can we best support all students – introverted as well as extroverted – in the classroom?
Although our culture values extroversion, introverted students cannot simply change the way they experience and interact with the world. As educators, we need to learn to recognize them and to focus our energies on seeing their strengths, so that we can teach them to harness and cultivate their abilities. In doing so, we will help our introverted learners develop the self-confidence and self-knowledge they need to successfully pursue their dreams. And that’s a benefit for all of us.
For further reading:
Categories: Reading & Learning
Research performed in the past few decades has demonstrated that we can improve reading skills by teaching students “metacognitive strategies.” By metacognition, we refer to enhancing one’s awareness of “what one believes and how one knows.” (Kuhn, 2000). In other words, the more we can teach students to be actively thinking about thinking as they learn, the more effective their learning will be.
In fact, we can teach students to become what Marcia Lovett of Carnegie Mellon University calls “expert learners.” According to Lovett (2008), teaching metacognition involves three specific processes:
According to Lovett’s research, an experimental group of students who used metacognitive strategies more strongly believed themselves to be effective learners, demonstrated greater motivation to learn, and achieved better academic performance than the control group. (2008)
What exactly do such metacognitive learning strategies look like in the classroom? Diane Dahl, in her blog post at The Educator’s PLN, shows how these ideas can be implemented in any number of ways, many times by simply tweaking existing instructional strategies. Here are a few recommendations based on her list.
While it might be easiest to imagine implementing these kinds of strategies in reading instruction, they can be adapted for teaching any subject. The idea is simply to get students to be consciously aware of, and take charge of, their own learning. The more we can do that, the more effective we will be as teachers.
As early as first grade, a child’s social skills are a compelling predictor of his future success both in and out of school. Like any developing skill, burgeoning social skills require support, practice and repetition. The desired behaviors are learned and taught through a variety of accumulating experiences stemming from the earliest years of childhood, between birth and age 6, when children grow and develop faster than during any other stage in their lives.
Children rely heavily on adults and other caregivers to help them acquire social skills and establish pathways for meaningful learning. To that end, researchers have found that when children are provided with positive and caring experiences in these early years, the connections in the brain for feeling good and learning are strengthened, self-esteem and confidence rise, and children are more equipped to cope with life’s challenges.
So whether you’re a parent or an educator, the following strategies will help promote social development in young children, while helping them learn to use their own minds:
Model Appropriate Social Behavior
Take advantage of everyday routines to “show and tell” children what your expectations are for appropriate behavior—for example, how to greet someone new or how to share a toy during play. By talking about what you’re doing as you’re doing it the child will better understand how to manage the situation and replicate it, even when you’re not there.
Positive self-esteem is critical to healthy social development. Make it a point to compliment children on their behavior, how they look, and progress they have made toward goals. When you acknowledge these attributes, children learn how to perceive and act upon their feelings in a healthy way.
Build Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving is a skill that employs reasoning, creativity, inhibitory control and decision making. Because children do not have fully mature executive functions, they are prone to making mistakes as their abilities emerge and the frontal lobe develops. Exploring solutions to problems by asking children “What would you do?” or offering alternative strategies will help them develop effective reasoning skills and mental flexibility.
Infants and young children explore their environment through movement and interaction. As a child develops confidence and control over her body in motion, she becomes more and more eager to venture into the world around her. Aid her natural curiosity by organizing activities that promote safe exploration, both at home and while out. Examples include asking children for help while preparing a meal or tasking them with finding an item at the grocery store. When you gradually extend opportunities to be involved with more complex activities, children will rise to the occasion.
Time spent playing with children can be one of the best investments you make in their educational future. One of the easiest ways to help children develop socially is by the simple act of playing. Joining in play builds relationships in a climate of fun and puts you in a great position to teach skills for sharing and cooperation, introducing concepts like winning or losing, and it also gives children a chance to learn about more subtle social cues, like body language and vocal intonations. So don’t be afraid to turn up the music for a little song and dance, put on a puppet show, or pull out some favorite board games and have fun!
Bierman, K.L., et al., Promoting academic and social-emotional school readiness: The Head Start REDI Program. Child Development, 79(6), 1802-1817, 2008.
Katz, Lilian and Diane McClellan. Young Children’s Social Development: A Checklist. World of Education. March 26, 2012.
Knitzer, Jane and C. Cybele Raver. What Research Tells Policymakers About Strategies to Promote Social and Emotional School Readiness Among Three- and Four-Year-Old Children. National Center for Children in Poverty. July, 2002.
Peters, Zrinka. Support Social and Emotional Development – Through Play! Education.com. March 26, 2012.
Supporting Social Development. Best Beginnings: Alaska's Early Childhood Investment. March 29, 2012.
Good grades and high achievement test scores are very real portals to success in life. Given the weight society grants such measures in evaluating individuals for everything from college to graduate school to entrance into the professional world, we cannot ignore the essential role of these traditional measures of success.
But that’s tradition; does the science support the idea that intellect and academic mastery ensure later success? What are the true determinants of triumph in school and life? Traditionally, intelligence and effort have been the two traits identified as the golden keys to future achievement. Still, there is a third variable that has long gone under-analyzed; in their 2011 paper, Von Strumm, Hell and Chamorro-Premuzic posit that yet another “pillar” of the mind must be taken into consideration: curiosity.
Back in 1963, Fiske and Butler stated that ability test scores measure what a person can do at a given time, whereas personality scales “provide a measure of what a person is most likely to do” in the future. (Fiske and Butler, pp. 258-259) This difference is fascinating, and one which we all too often fail to differentiate when working with and evaluating our students.
In their research, Von Strumm, Hell and Chamorror-Premuzic reviewed and analyzed multiple studies that investigated the relationships between academic performance and intelligence, as well as those between academic performance and personality traits such as curiosity. They found, among other results, that the combined effects of curiosity and effort equaled the impact of intellect on academic performance. In other words, their analysis played out scientifically what Dewey suggested back in 1910: “The curious mind [is] constantly alert and exploring [and] seeking material for thought, as a vigorous and healthy body is on the qui vive for nutriment. . . . Such curiosity is the only sure guarantee of acquisition of primary facts…” (Dewey, 1910, p. 31)
For educators, the implications of such conclusions represent a refreshing perspective on both how we perceive our students’ abilities and how we imagine and implement strategies to nurture their success. All too often, we fall into the trap of seeing our students and evaluating their performance in terms of their intellectual abilities.
But what if we could see them just as well for their possibilities? What if we could focus our gaze ahead and perceive their potential in those areas of knowledge that they were most hungry to pursue?
Because of brain plasticity research, we know that through finding strong existing neural pathways and thought patterns, we can connect them to the creation of new thought patterns; we can use existing strengths to cultivate new ones. For example, a child might not have excellent math skills, but a deep curiosity for space and the solar system. If we can use that passion for outer space to introduce mathematical concepts, the child is more likely to successfully learn those essential skills.
With this knowledge on our side, if we can tap into and cultivate our students’ curiosity, we can help them turn their immediate educational obstacles into opportunities, as well as help them to establish habits of mind that will serve them long into their futures after that last exam has come to a close.
For further reading: Von Stumm, Sophie. Hell, Benedikt. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. The Hungry Mind: Intellectual Curiosity Is the Third Pillar of Academic Performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6(6) 574–588.
Earlier this week, Dr. Martha S. Burns took webinar participants on a tour of the brain and its development from birth to four years of age. Since then, I’ve found myself considering and re-considering much of what I learned from her presentation, including the following memorable facts:
These facts barely scrape the surface of Dr. Burns’ visually rich and informative presentation, which begins with an overview of brain anatomy, brain function, and developmental timelines and ends with a caution against some popular “educational” products for young children.
To learn more about early childhood brain development, including how to build attention, number sense, problem solving and social skills in young children, view the recorded webinar.
What is the mark of a good student? Is it innate intelligence? Is it attention span? Is it drive? Studies show that a major contributor to success might be as simple as having self-control. Take, for example, the marshmallow experiment.
Place a single marshmallow in front of a four-year old. Tell them they can eat it now or wait 15 minutes and have it along with a second marshmallow.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Walter Mischel of Stanford University performed this very experiment with over 500 nursery school children. What percentage do you think was able to control their impulses and hold out for marshmallow number two? In the end, fewer than one in three children were able to wait it out for the two marshmallows. At four years old, they simply had not developed the ability to delay gratification required for the challenge.
Paired with recent follow-up studies with 155 of the same individuals, the marshmallow experiment has come to shed fascinating insights on the inner workings of motivation and gratification, and how the two contribute to future success in school and life.
In the end, these studies have shown that children who were able to resist that first marshmallow were also more likely to be able to “avoid substance abuse, maintain a healthy body weight, and even perform better on the SAT than peers who couldn’t resist temptation.” In another study by Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, self-control was a better predictor of academic success than IQ.
Self-control: Innate or teachable?
Given the proven connection between self-control and life success, the question arises: Is it possible to develop tools that help people enhance self-control?
As it turns out, self-control is the result of processes in two parts of the brain. Our rational thoughts, such as “If I wait, I get the second sweet,” take place in the pre-frontal cortex. More urgent decisions take place in the more primitive ventral striatum. Decisions like these that connect to deeper desire and reward depend on the environment around us. In this second case, the thought process might be, “Gee, that marshmallow sure looks soft, sweet and yummy, and I really want it. Right now.” Research has shown that the rational thoughts can often be derailed by the primitive limbic system; this is no surprise, given the importance of these systems to the survival of our species over the eons.
So, can we strengthen the ability of the rational side to win out over the impulsive side? One solution might just lie in helping young people change how they focus on the environment around them, such as helping them differentiate between “hot” and “cool” cues. The limbic system deals with “hot” cues, activating emotions like impulse, anger, sadness, happiness and satisfaction. On the other hand, “cool” cues are processed in the frontal lobe and activate cognitive systems that control functions like planning, problem solving, working memory and reasoning. Returning to a variant of our marshmallow experiment, studies have shown that students who were coached to focus on “cool” attributes like color or shape were better able to resist temptation than those who focused on “hot” cues like taste.
Toward impulse-control interventions
Research is now underway to figure out how educators can better harness some of these insights into the power of impulse- and self-control to help students better achieve success. At the KIPP Academy School in New York, the marshmallow experiment has been used as a way to initiate discussions about self-control with 6th graders and help them make better, more rational decisions.
Ultimately, the ability to produce concrete strategies and tools that help students learn to control their impulses will depend upon the results of investigations that are still in the works. But eventually, if we are taking the research to heart, success will likely follow.
For now, if your students seem a bit impulsive from time to time, a chat about marshmallows might be just the thing to get them thinking.
As parents, we want our children to have confidence but not conceit. That is, we want our children to monitor the outcomes of their behaviors realistically, to be polite and considerate of others, but retain a sense of self that is positive and assured. I believe the mistake parents often make is thinking that constant praise of a child is the route to self-confidence. It is an easy mistake to make, especially in a society in which so much emphasis is placed on making our children feel loved and building feelings of self-worth.
I, like most new parents, constantly praised my oldest child for everything she did from swinging at the park without falling to reading a stop sign as we drove to preschool. But the problem with that is that excessive praise may create unrealistic expectations for the child when they are in the “real world” where people do not praise them all the time. I did not realize that for my daughter this was creating tremendous pressure to be successful at everything she did. Conversely, some children who hear constant praise at home may feel confused or dejected when others are not as enthusiastic about their feats and develop a fear of failure.
A young client of mine, whose mother worked very hard to build self-confidence in her children by praising them continuously, developed a host of voice problems associated with stress in elementary school. I have worked with other children who developed a “need” for constant praise that affected their ability to enjoy competition if they could not win.
Since a large component of human brain maturation involves increased self-awareness and improved capacity for self-monitoring of behavior, parents have the opportunity to be instrumental in helping a child develop this advanced skill. By encouraging self-appraisal that is realistic while avoiding being overly judgmental, parents help their child build confidence.
Instead of constant praise, parents can try to use praise more naturally to encourage behaviors the parent believes are worthwhile or beneficial. Statements like, “I like the way you shared your toys today” or “You seemed to be having a lot of fun on the climber, do you feel like you are getting better at that?” may help a child learn to value effort and progress as well as to self-evaluate.
It is important to remind ourselves that to adequately develop the ability to monitor our behavior we have to understand mistakes as well as achievements. It is very difficult for a parent to watch a child fail at something, but as adults most of us are well aware that some of the best lessons we had as we grew up came from our failures, as rough as they may have been at the time.
Building your child’s self-esteem ultimately will help them succeed in endeavors both in school and in life. One of the most important jobs for parents is to help your child successfully through life’s challenges and successes, help them feel good about themselves along the way, and learn to accept mistakes as an opportunity to do better next time.