A few weeks ago a high school English teacher shared with me that he was struggling with one of his classes.
“They want to learn,” he said, “but they seem to have too much energy to sit while they do it.”
This influx of energy was causing behavioral problems and productivity issues on the students’ part, and frustration and angst on his part. So, we brainstormed a few strategies (each of which are shared below).
It’s no secret that movement in the classroom is essential, and not just for behavioral and productivity purposes. In short, movement helps to “increase the baseline of new neuron growth” and this neurogenesis leads to “increased cognition, better memory, and reduced likelihood of depression” (Jensen). In fact, “the average learner, regardless of age, needs to briefly move their bodies every 20–30 minutes” because “this enables learners to maintain focus, integrate learning across both of the brain’s hemispheres, enter information into memory, and avoid feeling overwhelmed” (Lamprecht).
Of course, that may seem easier said than done, but know that weaving more movement into the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are three simple strategies for adding (more) movement into the classroom:
Classroom discussions commonly occur with students sitting down talking to each other. “Inside/Outside Circle” gets students standing and talking with various different classmates: it’s an opportunity for both movement and for ensuring partner variety.
How it works:
It’s fairly common to see activities where the items being used are passed around to students who are sitting. This might been seen while doing peer editing or while analyzing exemplar essays: students sit while the papers/exemplars rotate through the various groups. This might be seen while studying various different maps: students sit while the different maps rotate through the various groups. This might be seen while exploring different fabric structures: students sit while the fabric swatches rotate through the various groups. But why not flip that around and have the students rotate while the items stay stationary?
How it works:
Text-on-Text / Text-on-Pic in Stations
Whether your analyzing poetry, works of art, satirical cartoons, architectural structures, or an already worked-through math problem—sitting and doing it can be a challenge for students. Instead of having them complete such analysis at their desks, have them work in small groups—analyzing together while moving on occasion.
An added bonus of this activity: it is done without talking—a great way to ensure that our introverted students are comfortable in the learning environment, too.
How it works:
In addition to the above strategies, there are many other little things that teachers do in their classrooms every day that help get students moving. Are you having students take notes or do an in-class writing task? Consider suggesting that when they start to disengage or get a little bit of fanny-fatigue that they stand at the back of the room for a bit as they write in their notebooks (some teachers even have a few clipboards available for students to grab just for this reason). Are you collecting some sample problems or homework examples from students? Try having students write these on the board rather than you personally doing it. Are you playing a video and need the lights off or do you need to close the door because of hallway noise? Ask a student to do that for you. These small changes provide opportunities for small movements, which is a step (pun intended) in the right direction.
Finally, consider when movement in the classroom is critical, and plan for it. Students are especially antsy the Friday of Homecoming week, during the high-sugar holidays of Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and any school day right before a long break—these are the times where classroom movement is especially welcomed by students.
As you work toward adding more movement into your classroom, please reach out to me or others on the C&I team. We would love to help you explore even more ways to get your students moving while they learn.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
The Cleveland Indians finished a historic 22 game run in August and September. I’m not a big baseball fan and I generally avoid hearing anything about the Cleveland Indians; however, since their World Series appearance last fall avoiding it is becoming increasingly harder to do.
Setting aside historic trauma, there is one common factor that affects students across urban, rural, suburban, and reservation locations: negative racial stereotypes. These stereotypes are all around us from the food we eat to the Halloween costume store, from the films we watch to the books we read. The most common stereotypes seen are the dehumanizing mascots in our high schools, colleges, and major professional sports leagues. The topic of dehumanizing mascots reached the Minnesota school board in 1988 when they identified them as negative and harmful to students. In 2005 the American Psychological Association, in their Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots, proposed an “immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools college universities, athletic teams and organizations.” This was “based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portals.” Nonetheless, such mascots remain representatives of our professional teams across the nation.
So what does this mean to educators? I am asking that, as an educator, you please be conscious of the images and messages used in your classroom. Please use reliable sources when teaching and discussing Native Americans, such as the ones found here. It is easy to teach about Native Americans only in the context of the past, as if Native Americans are now gone, but that is a fallacy. Sometimes we show images of them wearing headdresses, living in tee pees, and fighting with the “white man,” but forget to show the bigger picture. We do not want to leave Native Americans in the 19th century: Native Americans are here and are in today’s classrooms.
When thinking about what one teaches students, it is fundamental that students are taught that Rochester, Southeast Minnesota, the entire state, and the entire continent once belonged to hundreds of thriving societies. This nation wasn’t just empty space that was stumbled upon and inhabited with no impact to anyone.
Even more important to acknowledge is that today these societies are made up of 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States (there are additional tribes that are not federally recognized or that have lost their federal status). Plus, there are also the indigenous people of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Samoa to consider. Within the state of Minnesota there are eleven federally recognized tribes: these tribal nations are representative of two different nations of people. Seven of the tribal nations are of Ojibwe or Anishinabe people. The other four tribal nations are Dakota: these Dakota people made their way back to their ancestral lands after being outlawed, murdered, and forcibly removed from Minnesota a century earlier. Some students may not even realize that the word Minnesota (Mini –Sota) means “land where the water reflects the sky”—a Dakota phrase that pre-dates the country of America.
In Rochester Public Schools we have approximately 150 Native American students. These students are on a continuum from full blood Native to second generation descendants. The families that make up these 150 students are from 37 different Native Nations. Our students’ collective knowledge about their home communities and their people vary as much as their blood quantum and tribal nation diversity. What is constant is that they all identify as being Native American.
What does this mean for our Native American students? Statistically, it means that only 49% are likely to graduate high school in four years. It also means these students will struggle with academics, violence, and legal issues.
The academic numbers here are largely representative of the rest of the state.
If you want more information on this topic, or to understand this topic further, please contact me or attend the “Not Your Mascot” session during the district wide, October 5th professional development day.
If I had a nickel for every time a student came up to me after a test, the last week of the quarter, or even after report cards were released and asked “What can I do to raise my grade?” I might have been able to retire before I hit the age of 30. At the time it was easy for me to blame each of these conversations on point grubbing or students who didn’t prepare well enough the first time, but the fact of the matter is that I had created a game for them and they were simply playing by my rules. I realize now that the grading system I used in the classroom was a simple translation of the system I had experienced as a student and as a student teacher. In fact, perhaps like many of you, my very first grade book was primarily set up by my mentor teacher, with very little input from me. I didn’t know any better and there were far more important things, in my mind, to worry about than my gradebook. If I had only taken a moment to ask myself a few simple questions I might have avoided utilizing the following counterproductive and/or destructive grading practices:
So what questions would I pose to my first-year-teacher self? There are four of them—simple in nature, but can be very difficult to answer:
These are the four questions that were posed to the Secondary Grading Committee when they created the Purpose and Beliefs document related to grading, as shown below:
I encourage all RPS teachers to review this document and ask yourself these four simple questions.
In subsequent blog posts, I will be sharing some tips and tricks within some of these key grading and reporting areas. In the meantime, I encourage you to talk about grading and reporting with your colleagues and, if you don’t mind a good dose of passion, contact me and I'll join the conversation!
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
During the Back-to-School staff development days, the vast majority of our elementary and secondary math teachers attended a training on the 8 research-based mathematics instructional practices from NCTM. Participants had amazing conversations about how to make math learning more powerful for all of our students. The million dollar question now is… NOW WHAT? How does this impact my classroom?
It can be daunting to make sweeping changes to your instruction all at one time. Don’t let that deter you – just start somewhere. Here are some first steps you might try!
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Get to know your students as math learners
Pose some questions and ask students to discuss, write, or even draw a picture about their answers…
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Establish positive norms for your classroom and revisit them often
Communicate ideas such as those suggested by Jo Boaler in Mathematics Mindsets:
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As you begin to plan lessons, try to enhance the use of the 8 instructional practices.
Even small changes can have a great impact. As one math teacher shared in the August training, “I started by just having kids talk more and explain their thinking…and it made all the difference!”
Here are a some things to consider (again, from Jo Boaler, Mathematics Mindsets):
Finally, don't forget to give yourself and your students time to grow into these new practices!
This post brought to you by Carol Lucido, the K-8 District Math Coordinator
Easy Ways to Get your Students Talking and Thinking
It’s the first week of school and our classrooms are buzzing with excitement and purposeful student talk. Getting students talking and processing what they are learning is a great way to boost academic achievement and student engagement. In fact, when we asked students what they valued most about their favorite teachers many of them mentioned that these teachers provided time for them to talk with peers about the content in class. Here are some tips to support instructional dialogue in the classroom:
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Remember the 10 and 2 Rule
For every ten minutes of content you deliver students need two minutes to process and talk about what they heard and synthesize the learning. Some teachers plan these talk breaks into their slides in PowerPoint or Google Slides, while others ensure that students are seated next to a processing partner.
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Provide Sentence Frames
All of our students can benefit from sentence frames to help them with an entry point into academic conversations. This chart below from Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Carol Rothenberg can be a great tool for supporting more in-depth conversations in the classrooms.
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Embed Movement into your Talk Breaks
Standing up and processing with someone can make all of the difference in your student’s level of engagement. One simple strategy for making this happen is a simple Stand Up, Pair. Students stand up and pair up with someone who has the same color on as them or someone who is a similar height. Once they’ve share with their partner they can pair up with another group to share the highlights of their conversation. After a science lab, a teacher may ask students to stand up and pair up with someone from another lab group and talk about observations they made. In physical education a teacher may go over the rules or the sport or game being played and then have students stand up and pair up to share one or two of the most important points. It is important to let students know that they’ll be asked to talk with someone because it may change how they will engage in listening to the content.
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Everyone Does Everything
Master teachers use routines that require participation from all class members. In other words, everyone does everything. One such routine is a strategy I learned from Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning, by Rick Wormeli, is called Partner A/Partner B. The teacher provides some instruction, a demonstration or students may watch a movie clip. Then partner A summarizes the information they heard in one minute. Partner B then has one minute to add anything that partner A might have forgotten. This routine asks every student to be engaged in listening, summarizing and sharing their thinking. Compare this to a traditional classroom discussion in which only three or four students might share their thinking and you will see the power of total participation routines.
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
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