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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Project Appleseed Grows Parent Involvement

"The school is a critically important community institution, since the quality of education shapes not only our children's individual future, but also the future of our economy, community, and society," says Kevin Walker. "Support of public schools is important; involvement and action by several parents in a group can influence school policy-makers and result in decisions and choices than can benefit many children."

Project Appleseed Grows Parent Involvement

On National Parental Involvement Day 2010, Kevin Walker, founder of Project Appleseed, advises schools not to lament the lack of parental involvement, but to invite parents to do more. Included: A sample parent volunteer form from Abington (Pennsylvania) Junior High.
Walker serves as the president and national director of Project Appleseed, the organization he founded as a nonprofit resource and advocate for families engaged in education. National Parental Involvement Day, held on the third Thursday of each November, was started by Project Appleseed in 1994. Walker suggests that one of the most important activities schools can employ in observance of the special day this year is to celebrate reading as a fun, school- and community-wide activity.
"Recruit parents, families, churches, and local businesses to participate in a special reading program for students and families," he advises. "Hold storytelling nights, guest author and poetry readings, read-aloud programs, dramatic readings, book fairs and book drives, a read-a-thon or a book report festival, family literacy nights, or other literacy activities for the whole community."
One of Project Appleseed's primary tools is the Parental Involvement Pledge, which asks parents to take responsibility for the education of their children through a commitment to help with homework and volunteer at school for at least five hours per semester. Some schools use the occasion of National Parental Involvement Day to introduce the pledge to parents and to rally volunteers.

From School with Love

On November 18, teachers and students at Midland Academy Charter School will reward parents with a special thank-you for their volunteerism. It will be the second annual celebration of National Parental Involvement Day at the Midland, Texas, school.
During last year's event, students and teachers made signs and posted them inside and outside the school. Teachers donated bags of candy, with small notes of thanks attached to the tasty treats. The candy was distributed to parents as they arrived to pick up their children at the end of the school day.
"Parents were thrilled," Principal Janet Wallace recalls. "Many were overheard saying that they had never been told that they were appreciated by educators before. We had excellent participation in all family events for the remaining part of the school year."
What Wallace remembers best is the smiles on the faces of the parents who were surprised with the candy gifts. Staff members had to stay late into the evening before the celebration to finish attaching the notes of gratitude, but their efforts paid off.
"We’re always asking parents to do things, but this was a small thing we did to honor parents. It was so well received," she added.
"The pledge is especially effective because it systemically measures and targets parental involvement, while building valuable social capital," Walker explains. "The pledge entices parents to come to school for volunteering, parenting, academics, communication, safety, decision making, performances and more. It can create billions of hours of volunteer service in America's public schools."
Walker reports that there are more than 55 million public school parents in America, and he firmly believes that real education reform cannot take place without an effective parent constituency. If Americans do not make systematic efforts to address how to get parents back into the schools, he warns, they will likely face an uphill battle with some very unpleasant long-term consequences for the country.
"Many schools simply fail to ask parents to become partners in the education of students," Walker told Education World. "Schools fail to set expectations for meaningful and measurable parental involvement. They treat parental involvement as an afterthought. Principals and teachers should ask parents on the first day of school to commit to a minimum number of volunteer hours inside and outside school."


"Traditionally, across the country, there is a significant drop from the number of parent volunteers at the elementary level to the number of parent volunteers at the junior-high/middle-school level," Nicole Cicci Kazarian observes. "Parents are somewhat reluctant to volunteer at the junior-high level, but not at Abington Junior High School. Since the introduction of Project Appleseed, the commitment of families at the junior-high level has been remarkable."
Prior to Project Appleseed, parental involvement at Abington Junior High School in Pennsylvania was typical for a large, suburban junior-high school and was limited to active PTO members. Parents wanted to volunteer, but the role of parent involvement was not defined. Project Appleseed brought greater clarity to volunteer activities and became a vehicle for organizing volunteer opportunities. Today, team members at the school aren't shy about asking parents to be a force in their children's education.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: Magic Moments Shirts

Best Idea Ever: Magic Moments Shirts

This is an idea that I pass along to all the teachers who attend my workshops:
Use your computer (large fonts, color, and graphics) to create a visual representation of an idea or concept you want your students to remember. Print the image, in reverse, on iron-on transfer paper, and then iron the transfer onto a white t-shirt. Wear the shirt on the day you introduce the concept represented. Students will be looking at your shirt all day long -- which will dramatically increase their ability to remember the concept. These shirts are colorful and fun, and get the message across many more times than I could possibly say it aloud.

I have a complete closet full of these idea and concept shirts. I teach 4th through 8th grade, so I have everything on shirts from parts of speech, to reducing fractions, to the writing process, to our classroom behavior rules.
My students love to predict when I will be wearing a new "Magic Moment" shirt. At the end of the year I have a drawing of shirts that need to be retired, and the students love to take them home. I have even seen them being worn by former students!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: H.O.T. Drawing Jar

Best Idea Ever: H.O.T. Drawing Jar

When I was teaching, I called this idea the H.O.T. -- Homework On Time -- drawing. Students who turned in their homework on time put their names in a jar and were eligible for a drawing. Now that I'm retired and subbing, I use the jar idea throughout the day for whatever need arises. In the morning, I explain to students that I'll be drawing names throughout the day and awarding small prizes -- edible treat or little trinkets, pencils, erasers -- to those whose names I select. I point out that the more times a name is in the jar, the better chance it has of being drawn. So, if students need speeding up, I might say "put your name in the jar when you finish." If the classroom is messy, I might have students whose areas are clean put their names in the jar. In fact, the possibilities are endless!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: Healthy Pencils

Best Idea Ever: Healthy Pencils

I work with new teachers in elementary schools, many of whom get sick the first year or two of teaching until they build up immunity. One of the tips I pass along to them is to never pick up a student's pencil. As teachers, we see children struggling with an assignment and we pick up their pencils to show them how to do a problem, spell a word, correct an answer, and so on. Instead of using the child's pencil (which is covered with germs!), I tuck a pencil behind my ear and only use that pencil. My students often ask why I always have a pencil behind my ear! I tell them it's so I don't lose it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: Grammar Letters

Best Idea Ever: Grammar Letters

I have a small bulletin board that I have titled "You've Got Mail." Next to the board is a cup with every students name on a piece of paper. When a student has free time, he or she may draw a name out of the cup and write a letter to the person whose name is drawn.

The catch? The letter must include five writing errors-- spelling, grammar, capitalization, and so on. When the letter is completed, signed, and addressed, its posted on the bulletin board to be collected by the addressee, read... and CORRECTED! This is a great way for students to practice writing and editing skills while "legally" passing notes in class. The kids love it.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: Notebook Communications

Best Idea Ever: Notebook Communications

Last year, I started using a spiral notebook for each child as a parent notebook. At the beginning of the year, the notebook goes home with a letter about how it will be used. Each week, progress reports are stapled into the notebook to inform parents about academics, effort, behavior, preparedness, and attendance. Parents are encouraged to look at the notebook each night to see if I have sent home any communication. I take care not to make it a "behavior" notebook, but to include great things that have happened or even notices when their child felt ill, and so on. I also attach notes about upcoming tests and projects and test scores. Parents can use the notebook to write to me about anything. I ask them to write notes about absence and lateness in the notebook as well.

The notebook is a huge timesaver for me because I can refer to it all year long. Rather than having to pull out a folder stuffed with random notes on different pieces of paper, I have all the documentation in one place. Students with organizational issues have everything in one place as well, and are much less likely to lose what is sent from school to home and back.

Next year, I plan to have my third graders write in their notebooks at the end of each day to tell about their day at school. That way, the notebook will become even more interactive with parents.
Since I started using the notebooks, communication with parents has increased tremendously. When I sent out a survey at the end of last school year to get parent feedback about the notebooks, the positive response was unanimous.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: The Job of Learning

Best Idea Ever: The Job of Learning

I spend a lot of time connecting what we do in the classroom with the world of work. For example, I talk to students about how school is their "job" and the effort and hard work they put into that job reflects the success they will have when they enter the working world. I point out that establishing good habits now will bring them rewards in the future.
Students' classroom supplies are the "tools" for their current job. If they are unprepared, I remind them that, in the working world, they would not be able to do heir jobs if they forgot their tools. "Pay day" is when I hand out progress reports or report cards. Their effort is directly reflected in the grades they earned. We also discuss how far they might go in the world of work with the pay they've earned.

Discussions of the workplace are supported by a yearlong effort to teach students strategies for success -- test taking, note taking, listening skills, personal goal setting -- in all their classes. By the end of the year, most students are taking responsibility for their performance, which reflects growth and maturity. In junior high, taking responsibility is sometimes a monumental achievement!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Best Idea Ever: Owning Knowledge

Best Idea Ever: Owning Knowledge

My best idea ever has been allowing my students to conduct research on questions we cannot answer in class. I teach at the Baltimore Talent Development High School in Baltimore Maryland. For the past three years, I have allowed my 10th graders to vote for a student researcher every Monday. They love it and so do I!
Every Monday, a new student is voted as the class researcher. They can earn one service-learning hour per day for their services to our class. Talk about owning your knowledge! They report out the next day or by the end of the week. Sometimes I use the information as bonus questions on a test or quiz.
This instructional strategy has been instrumental in getting my students involved in community events, planning fundraisers, and other service-learning projects. I also have found it to be helpful with students who otherwise would be disinterested in the class. They seem to love the fact they can be a leader in the classroom. My high school assessments scores have increase dramatically as well. Students seem so eager to learn American Government and World History in my class now!
I would encourage all teachers to use something like this in their classrooms.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Student Suspended For Hugging Classmate

A seemingly innocent act has landed a 14-year-old middle school student in trouble after he was seen hugging one of his friends. Fox News reported that Nick Martinez, a student at Palm Bay, FL’s Southwest Middle School, gave a hug to his best friend between classes. The principal caught the pair, and while the principal admitted that he believed the hug was innocent, he was compelled by school policy to bring the two students to the school's dean, who penalized them with in-school suspensions.
Even a jovial hug like this one would be a punishable offense in some schools.
Southwest Middle School's student handbook outlines a clear, zero-tolerance policy against public displays of affection. “Students can receive a one-day out-of-school suspension for kissing, while students caught hugging or hand-holding are penalized with a dean's detention or suspension,” Fox News reported.
School administrators told Fox that a committee of parents approved the no-hugging policy years ago. They also said there are no plans to change it any time soon.
The school's strict policy is aimed at combating sexual harassment; therefore there is no difference between an unwanted hug or a hug between friends.
Many schools---everywhere from Keller, TX and Oak Park, IL to Vienna, VA and Milford, CT---have made news by implementing similar policies.
Christine Davis, spokesperson for the Brevard County school district, told Fox News that the school's "focus is on learning; therefore, we cannot discriminate or make an opinion on what is an appropriate hug, what's not an appropriate hug. What you may think is appropriate, another person may view as inappropriate."
"A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it," Nick told the news agency. "Honestly, I didn't know because I didn't think hugging was a bad thing. I didn't know you could get suspended for it."
Nick's mother, Nancy Crecente, said she will seek to have the policy altered.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Steve Jobs’ Legacy Benefits Teachers

Recently, countless news outlets have touted the accomplishments of the late Steve Jobs, yet few, if any, touched on one particular program he created that is designed to benefit educators.
The Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) program was created to recognize K-12 and higher-education pioneers who are using a variety of Apple products to transform teaching and learning. Today it has grown into a worldwide community of visionary educators who are doing amazing things with technology in and out of the classroom. That includes working together (and with Apple) to help bring the freshest ideas to students everywhere.
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs respected teachers and created a program to honor and help them.
ADEs work closely with Apple to lead innovation in education. They advocate using new technology to help engage students in new ways — and share their expertise with other educators and policymakers. They advise Apple on the realities of integrating technology into learning environments. They author and publish valuable insights, lessons and best practices. They also work together as ambassadors to develop and promote powerful ideas for improving teaching and learning worldwide.
There are now over 1,500 ADEs worldwide, and they all gather at the ADE online community (as well as in person) to collaborate on solutions to the global education challenges of today and tomorrow.
Examples of the strides ADEs are making are almost everywhere. Kathy Shirley, ADE Class of 2003, helped integrate the iPod touch into her students’ reading exercises. By recording and listening to themselves read, students got instant feedback and became much more engaged. In a short six months, they gained almost two full years of reading comprehension. José Garcia, ADE Class of 2009, helped his school district bring project-based learning to grades 6 through 12. Enhancing curriculum with engaging, interactive projects, students created movies, podcasts, wikis and blogs. In seven years, the percentage of graduating seniors going to college jumped from 26 to 90.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Site Review: Scholastic Story Starters

Content:  This virtual machine, a section of the larger site, provides students with randomly selected themes for writing assignments.
Design:  The machine’s whimsical appearance and audio (think a casino slot machine if it were designed by Willy Wonka) skew younger, but older students are likely to find it amusing as well.
Review: The story generator is a one-trick pony, but that trick is a very good one. How else would kids come up with an assignment where they compose a camping story about a sad pirate who is from Mars?
The buttons all function flawlessly, and the actual story starters are entertaining. Students would have a good time just endlessly spinning the dials and reading what the machine comes up with. When students are finished writing and electronically illustrating their stories, they can print them in an appealing format.
Bottom Line: There isn’t a lot here, but if you’re looking for writing inspiration and a fun computer lab activity for the elementary level, this a good place to start.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Site Review:

Site URL:       
Content: offers a handful of mapmaking resources, along with links to sites that explore how geography relates to just about everything.
geographyDesign:  This site scores points for its simple—even spartan—design. The homepage features a nice, dominating graphic and several clickable boxes that direct teachers, students and other users to their respective areas of the site.
The teacher’s section is similarly straightforward, with a list of links running down the left side of the page and an additional ornamental graphic.
Review: Teachers can use to supplement class discussions on just about any topic. The ability to make a map, or delve deeper into the general topic of geography, are among the site’s best offerings.
Bottom Line: There isn’t a huge amount of content here, but the site is definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

NBC Reveals Education Nation 2012

One of the preeminent forums for discussing the future of education in America is returning for a third year. NBC’s Education Nation 2012 begins next month and will culminate with the event’s national summit in New York City in September, according to details released by the network. NBC News President Steve Capus said the initiative will employ all platforms of NBC News— including MSNBC, programs like “NBC Nightly News,” “Today,” “Rock Center,” and “Meet the Press,” digital properties such as and, and live eveducation nationents across the country—in a continued effort to shine a spotlight on the challenges, potential solutions and innovations spanning today's education landscape. In 2012, Education Nation will attempt to deepen public engagement in a solutions-focused discussion on improving student achievement and preparedness for the workforce— giving special attention to innovation and technology.

The centerpiece of Education Nation 2012 will be the national summit in New York City from Sept. 23-25, when once again, NBC News will convene policymakers, elected officials, teachers, parents, thought leaders, educators, members of the business community and engaged citizens in a national discussion about education. Built around solutions, the Education Nation 2012 summit will showcase real-life examples of communities and classrooms that are closing the skills gap and educating students so they can compete for the jobs of the future. The event will be held in a new venue to be announced later this spring.

In addition to the summit, the network is also continuing “Education Nation On-the-Road.” Making stops in Denver (April 15-16), Atlanta (May 6-7) and Miami (May 20-21), the NBC News team will host a series of panels and events involving NBC News anchors and correspondents, local leaders, officials, educators, parents, and students.

“Education Nation On-The-Road” will feature a teacher town hall meeting in each city, which will be moderated by NBC News and the local stations, and bring local teachers together in a unique educator-only forum to discuss what works in the classroom and highlight the challenges of today’s education system. Online, will host information on all local events.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Explore the Most-Read Irish Authors

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, a student-specific research tool has ranked the 10 most-read Irish authors.
Online research firm Questia compiled the list based on the use of the authors’ books in a series of libraries. The list includes a variety of literary types from a diverse range of time periods. Poets, playwrights and prose writers are all included.
 So don a fisherman’s sweater, fire up some corned beef and consider exploring one or more of these Irish authors in class:
10 - Oliver Goldsmith:  An Anglo-Irish writer and poet, Goldsmith is well-known for his novel The Vicar of James JoyceWakefield as well as numerous poems.  He is also thought to be the source of the phrase “goody two-shoes.”
9 - Sean O’Casey:  One of the first Irish playwrights to write about the Dublin working class, O’Casey was involved in groups such as the Gaelic League and the Irish Republican Brotherhood which represented the interests of unskilled laborers.
8 - Brian Friel:  Hailed by the English-speaking world as “the universally accented voice of Ireland,” Friel’s career as a dramatist has generated classic plays such as “Philadelphia, Here I Come!” and “Dancing at Lughnasa.”
7 - Edmund Burke:  An Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, Burke has generally been viewed as the founder of modern conservatism as well as a representative of classic liberalism.
6 - Jonathan Swift:  Although portions of his work were published under aliases or anonymously, Swift is considered the foremost prose satirist in the English language.  In fact, he is known for being a master of two styles of satire—Horatian and Juvenalian.
5 - Samuel Beckett:  Widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Beckett’s works often offered a bleak tragicomic outlook on human nature, coupled with gallows humor.
4 - C.S. Lewis:  A novelist, poet, academic medievalist, literary critic and essayist, Lewis is known for both his fictional and non-fictional pieces. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies.
3 - George Bernard Shaw:  A playwright, Shaw wrote more than 60 plays throughout his life. He examined social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege through his work, incorporating comedy into the stark themes.
2 - Oscar Wilde:  Wilde may be remembered for his career as a playwright, but the writer’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has become a classic reference in the mainstream media.
1 - James Joyce:  An Irish novelist and poet, Joyce was one of the most influential writers among the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century. He is best known for his work Ulysses, in which he parallels the events of Homer’s Odyssey using a variety of literary styles.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Educational Research Blogs: Top Picks

HighBeam Research, a division of Cengage Learning, has revealed the 10 blogs it deems to be the best in the field of education. “There are so many outstanding research blogs that our staff had quite a challenge and a lot of fun coming up with these lists of our favorites,” said Matt McCloskey, Marketing Director of HighBeam Research. “In the end, we chose blogs that have a fresh perspective on their topic and offer deep insight and analysis. The list varies from very well-known blogs that are already go-to guides in their field and some that we feel have the potential for growth.”
These top 10 blogs for educational research were hand-picked by the HighBeam Research staff and were included based on their level of insight into education and learning. The list, in no particular order, includes:
The Quick and the EdHomeroom: This is the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education.
Honors College Admission Blog: The Honors College Admission Blog for Western Kentucky University offers valuable commentary and tips.
The College Solution: This blog is from Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a nationally recognized college expert, higher-ed journalist, consultant and teacher.
The Quick and the Ed: Published by Education Sector, this blog offers in-depth analysis on the latest in education policy and research.
History is Elementary: Written by a history teacher, this blog is for other history teachers and anyone who enjoys reading about history and history education.
NYC Private Schools: This online community encompasses all aspects of NYC private, independent, and religious schools.
Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Vicki Davis, a full-time teacher and blogger, shares with teachers and parents her insights on how to reach this generation of learners.
Tween Teacher: Heather Wolpert-Gawron discusses the latest news in education, curriculum design, and educational policy while offering tips on how to enjoy teaching.
 Generation YES Blog: This blog presents thoughts on empowering the current generation of learners with current technology.
The Wired Campus: The Chronicle of Higher Education features the latest news on tech and education.
“Our mission at HighBeam Research is to offer the most up-to-date resources for anyone doing research,” McCloskey added. “Our hope is that our community will find commentary on our favorite blogs useful as an extension of this mission.”

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Book Claims Negative Impact of SATs

In a revealing look at high-stakes standardized admissions tests, a new book called SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admissions, demonstrates the far-reaching and mostly negative impact of the tests on American life and calls for nothing less than a national policy change.
Edited by Wake Forest University Professor of Sociology Joseph Soares, the book presents:
  • New evidence of gender bias against women in the math section and racial biases against minorities built into the verbal section of the SAT;
  • The only institutional admissions validity study ever published by a top-tier private research university, Johns Hopkins University;
  • The only data ever published showing that test-optional and "don't ask, don't tell" test score practices get private and public universities stronger and more socially diverse students than admissions that require test scores; and
  • Further evidence that SAT and ACT scores are weak predictors of grades and that they come with inherent social disparities.
"Standardized tests allow colleges to practice social discrimination in the name of academic selectivity, when, in reality, high school grades are the best predictor of future collegiate success," said Soares. "SAT Wars provides a roadmap for rethinking admissions at a time when higher education seems lost."
The book features an authoritative combination of voices, including college presidents; provosts; deans; scholars of economics, history, and sociology; and test-industry participants. Contributors include:
  • Daniel Golden, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in The Wall Street Journal on admissions;
  • Robert J. Sternberg, the world's most-cited living authority on educational research and Provost at Oklahoma State University; and
  • Martha Allman, Dean of Admissions at Wake Forest University (, the first top-30 national university to become test-optional, publicly recognizing that years of achievement should not be negated by one Saturday morning.
"For the past three years, we have been delighted by the response from outstanding high school students who are drawn philosophically to an admissions selection process which includes a personal interview, a creative and thought-provoking application and an emphasis on intellectual curiosity and character," said Allman, who wrote a chapter on the challenges, surprises and rewards of Wake Forest's test-optional decision, which began with first-year students in the fall of 2009.
"Our student body is now more racially and socio-economically diverse than ever, and the number graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school classes has increased each year since it has become test-optional – from 65 percent of first-year students in 2008, to 83 percent in 2011."
Soares is a driving force behind the national movement to rethink college admissions and has organized national conferences and panels on the topic, including one at Wake Forest University involving admissions deans and researchers from leading institutions such as Duke University, University of Georgia, Harvard University, Howard University, University of Texas, University of Virginia and Yale University. Soares' 2007 book,

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Kids Fight Bullying Through Comic Strips

Through the end of November 2011, young people across the country can share ideas about how to prevent bullying by making their own comic strips through the “Stop Bullying: Speak Up Comic Challenge.”
Cartoon Network Bullying planCreated by Cartoon Network and Bitstrips, the campaign gives kids a creative and novel way to add their voice to the national discussion on bullying.
“Students play a powerful role in stopping bullying. Bitstrips is a unique, creative way to give young people a strong, effective voice,” said Alice Cahn, Cartoon Network vice president of social responsibility. “We are delighted to be working with Bitstrips and Bitstrips for Schools to extend the reach of our Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign.”
Accessible at, the “Stop Bullying: Speak Up Comic Challenge” enables anyone to make great-looking comics without having to draw. Kids start by turning themselves into a cartoon avatar, and then become part of a comic strip in which it’s up to them to resolve a bullying problem: What should they do if they see someone being bullied? What if they’re a victim, or even the bully? Kids finish the comic using their own ideas and words, and can share them in an online gallery.
“In all of the discussion about bullying in recent years, kids’ perspectives have generally been underrepresented,” said Bitstrips CEO Jacob Blackstock. “By introducing the subject through comics—a format kids love—we hope to really get them talking and thinking critically about what they can do to reduce bullying at school and in their social lives. We think that this initiative could be the start of something very big in that respect.”
Following Bullying Prevention Month, all the best entries will be published in a downloadable comic anthology.
Schools looking for a creative way to introduce bullying as a topic of discussion can enter the “Stop Bullying: Speak Up Comic Challenge,” too. Teachers can choose from eight bullying prevention activities and assign them to students through a secure virtual classroom. Finished comics can be shared by teachers in their own classroom gallery, where they can be read by other students, parents and the whole community.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

NBC Event to Address Water-Supply Crisis

NBC, in collaboration with the Weather Channel, will air a special town hall event bringing students, educators, scientists and politicians together to discuss the future of our water supply.
Slated to air on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. EST, “Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future” is the last in a three-part series produced under a partnership between NBC Learn, the National Science Foundation and Discover magazine. NBC News Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent Anne Thompson moderated the event, which was hosted by Arizona State University.
NBC Green is Universal“We face great challenges now, and in the years and decades ahead when it comes to water—including its scarcity and its purity,” said Thompson. “It is important that we have these kinds of discussions about how we can work together to protect and conserve one of our world’s most important resources.”
This edition of “Changing Planet” brings together over 400 students and features four leading experts from science, academia and politics: Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico; Grady Gammage, Jr., senior sustainability scholar with the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and senior research fellow with the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and Heidi Cullen, former climate expert for The Weather Channel and  current research scientist and correspondent with “Climate Central.”
The Weather Channel will also present encore broadcasts of the first two “Changing Planet” town halls during “Green is Universal” week. “Changing Planet: Our Lives”— moderated by Tom Brokaw and hosted by Yale University—will air on Monday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. EST. “Changing Planet: Clean Energy, Green Jobs and Global Competition”— moderated by Anne Thompson and hosted by George Washington University—will air on Friday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. EST.
A special print adaptation of "Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future" will appear in the December 2011 issue of Discover magazine, available on Nov. 15.
Viewers and readers are invited to get involved through a series of citizen science projects developed to help researchers monitor ecological and environmental changes to the planet. Visit

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Teaching Students to Set High Goals

Do your students know how to set goals and create action plans to maximize their chances of success? If not, you might be interested to know that one of the strongest indicators of one's future success is the ability to set goals and take steps to achieve them. Yet we seldom teach our students these skills.
Whether it's due to lack of time or lack of awareness, goal-setting has not been a part of our traditional education system.
Fortunately, teaching students how to set goals is easy. To get started, read Goal Setting 101, a 3-part article that describes the process. Then download and print the Goal Tracker booklet, a student journal for recording goals and focusing on action steps.
Students begin by recording four goals for the grading period on the front inside cover of the booklet. Then each week they reflect on what steps they have taken toward their goals and what steps they plan to take in the coming week. At the end of the grading period, they share their successes with their classmates.
Using the Goal Tracker booklet makes the goal-setting process easier than ever, and the benefits will last a lifetime. It's time to get started now!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tools for Teaching Supplies Specifics for PBIS and RtI

The difference between knowing what should be done and being able to do it represents the quantum leap in learning.
~ Madeline Hunter

In the 1990s, the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Dept. of Education, founded the National Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to help schools develop effective school wide disciplinary practices. That program was a response to the disproportionately large number of suspensions, particularly out-of-school suspensions, given to minority students.
More recently, the same Office of Special Education Programs initiated Response to Intervention (RtI) to help schools develop effective instructional practices. The problem being addressed was an unacceptably high rate of academic failure, especially among minority students. As you might imagine, one of the underlying goals of those twin initiatives was to reduce the overburdening of special education resources as more and more students required IEPs.


The focus of both PBIS and RtI is prevention. PBIS focuses on the prevention of discipline problems, and RtI focuses on the prevention of learning problems. As in most models of prevention, overriding importance is given to primary prevention as the only viable means of cost containment. To illustrate, both programs use the following pyramid:

Naturally, that emphasis on primary prevention brings classroom management front and center. What skills and procedures define the green zone? What, exactly, do we want teachers to do?


Read More

Have you seen these Education World articles About Dr. Fred Jones?

Unfortunately, when it comes to supplying specifics, both PBIS and RtI hit the wall. That shortcoming, rather than reflecting a problem with the Office of Special Education Programs, reflects the fact that academic education has ignored classroom management for the past 50 years.
Accordingly, PBIS seeks to serve as a catalyst for the team building and consensus building required to produce a system of discipline management at the district and school site levels. So much for specifics. Similarly, RtI stresses the importance of using research based instructional practices, which they refer to collectively as quality instruction.
But what is quality instruction? A detailed description of high-quality instruction can be found in chapter eight of Positive Behavioral Supports for the Classroom, by Scheurermann and Hall (Pearson Education, Inc., 2008). The authors discuss large group instruction, small group instruction, one-to-one instruction, direct teaching (coaching-modeling-behavioral rehearsal), peer tutoring, and so on. They talk about the importance of clarity, opportunity to respond, the importance of explicit instructions and frequent monitoring, and so on.
In other words, they describe the common knowledge of general education. If that could produce primary prevention, it would have done so by now.
Furthermore, those two programs do not integrate discipline and instruction in classroom management -- something thats essential for success with either. Rather, PBIS and RtI are separate institutions housed at separate universities run by separate groups of academicians. Integration is left to practitioners.


The objective of Tools for Teaching for the past 40 years has been to develop specific classroom management procedures that prevent both discipline and instruction problems. Moreover, in contrast to current initiatives, Tools for Teaching integrates the management of instruction and discipline within the classroom in the form of down-to-earth procedures.
Some of the topics in Tools for Teaching that define the integration of discipline and instruction are:
  • Working the Crowd
  • Praise, Prompt, and Leave
  • Visual Instructional Plans
  • Say, See, Do Teaching
  • Continuous Assessment
  • Incentives for Diligence and Excellence
  • Meaning Business
  • Responsibility Training
Those topics comprise the language of Tools for Teaching, which becomes second nature to trainees. During workshops, teachers often say, Why didnt I get this stuff in college? or Everybody should have these skills.

Differentiated Instruction, Flexibility Make Multi-Age Classes Work

Multi-grade classes sound like a lot of work for teachers. But by regularly assessing students, differentiating instruction, and using flexible groupings, the experience can be revitalizing for a teacher. Included: Tips for planning lessons in multi-grade classes.
Assigning teachers to multi-grade classes used to be considered a last-ditch effort to save money and avoid hiring more staff.
But while that still may be the case in some districts, other educators see the practice as beneficial for students and renewing for teachers.
"It allows you to be a teacher again; it's not like following a scripted curriculum," said Terri Peterson, a retired multi-grade teacher from Van Buren Elementary School in the Thompson (Colorado) School District.


The district formed several multi-grade classes this year for first and second grades and fourth and fifth grades. "Several teachers in the district had experience teaching multi-grade classes, began researching the idea, and learned about the benefits of such classes," said Diane Lauer, director of curriculum and instruction for the district. "Next thing we knew, we had five to seven schools with teachers interested in multi-grade classes."
Administrators started considering the idea after construction of a new elementary school in the district resulted in the shift of some students among other schools and bigger classes, but no additional staff members. We didn't want very large classes at some grade levels, Lauer explained.

You have to look at kids as duckies in a rubber ducky race. Some get ahead, some get stuck in the reeds. Your job is to get everyone into the flow and moving forward.
A multi-grade class is different from a combination class, in which instructors teach curricula for two grade levels in one year, which is both challenging and stressful for the teachers, noted Peterson.
Several teachers with multi-grade experience, including Peterson, conducted a two-day workshop this summer for teachers new to teaching multi-grade classes. The key to success in a multi-grade class is being able to effectively differentiate instruction, said Lauer. That includes looking at students needs, pre-testing students to determine their abilities, using flexible grouping to meet those needs, assessing their progress, and making changes to the groups when students master skills or need additional help. Some of the multi-grade classes in the district have two instructors and some three.
"You have to look at kids as duckies in a rubber ducky race," Peterson told Education World. "Some get ahead, some get stuck in the reeds. Your job is to get everyone into the flow and moving forward."


After giving teachers some background information and data about multi-grade classes, Peterson, who taught for 32 years including 17 in multi-grade classes, and the other facilitators reviewed national and state standards for different grade levels with teachers. The facilitators pointed out what students in each grade needed to know. Then teachers analyzed the standards and determined what they already were doing to meet them. Once they knew what they needed to teach, she said, they could decide how to teach it. Often teachers must step back from the research-based, scripted curricula many districts adopt to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, Peterson added.
Workshop leaders also shared different ways to develop curriculum maps, units of study, and unit organizers to support their multi-age classrooms, said Wendy McNaney, a second-grade teacher, interventionist, and another workshop facilitator. Curriculum was one of the teachers' biggest concerns -- especially in the areas of science and social studies, she told Education World. "We tried to gear teachers to look more specifically at the science standards as they planned, rather than already-developed grade-level science units. Many of the teachers are committed to multi-year plans, so they will be rotating units -- either all one grade level the first year and the second grade level the next or rotating grade-level units throughout the year."

Only in public education do we say that because you were born between this date and that date, you get a certain magic box of knowledge, and we know this is what you need because we're old.
Multi-grade teachers need to use lots of flexible groupings, Peterson noted. Don't do the same thing with everyone at the same time, she said. If kids don't need three days on a skill, just don't teach it that way. Look at where students are as opposed to where they should be. You want them to go as far as they possibly can. If a fourth grader is ready for fifth-grade skills, teach him or her those.
For a unit on fractions, for example, all three teachers in the classes would be involved, Peterson said. Students would be assessed before teachers started the unit and divided into groups based on whether they were abstract or concrete learners. After a concept was finished, students would be retested and regrouped if necessary, and the unit would continue. You are not a Bluebird forever, joked Peterson, referring to traditional elementary school reading groups.
Students in multi-age classes tend to grow at least one academic year in the first year and about a year-and a half in the second. Higher achieving students always show growth, according to Peterson. "For about six years, we had at least one student skip sixth grade every year."

Friday, 4 October 2013

Welcoming Students New to the Building

Every new school year, teachers welcome a new crop of students into their classroom fold. Making those who are new to the building feel connected and supported is a crucial part of building a positive classroom and school climate. New GuyAn even bigger challenge than students who are entering the school’s lowest grade level are young people who have transferred into the district, possibly once the school year is already underway. It can be difficult for transfer students to not only leave friends behind at another school, but also to be surrounded by new classmates who already know each other.
While every new-to-the-building student is different, there are a handful of key steps that educators can take to ensure that newcomers feel welcome.
Make time for staff-student connections
During the student’s first week of school, set aside a few brief “chat sessions” when you talk informally about how he or she perceives the new school. You may want to ask questions such as:
  • What was the best thing that happened in your first few days here? What happened that was not as great?
  • Have you connected with other students at lunchtime?
  • (For bus riders) How has the bus ride been going?
  • Have students reached out to welcome you and include you? What’s something nice that another student has done for you?
  • How have things been going in gym class? At recess?
  • What’s your favorite school subject?
  • What’s something you’ve enjoyed doing in class?
  • What’s something that has been hard in class?
  • Tell me about your homework assignments. (Hard? Easy? Too much/too many? Turned in on time?)
  • (If applicable) How is this school different from the last school you attended?
  • What has been confusing or surprising about this school?
  • What makes you unique compared to other students here?
  • What’s something you’re really good at that your teacher(s) should make sure you get a chance to do?
  • Are you interested in joining any extracurricular activities? Let me tell you about some of the opportunities here.
  • As your teacher(s), what can I/we do to make you more comfortable in the building?
  • When I was new to this building, it helped me to _____________ . Would something like that help you?
  • When I was new to this building, I worried that _______________ . Let’s brainstorm together about ways to help with those jitters.
With these conversations, you’ll begin building a personal relationship and show students that you are someone they can trust. Be sure to continue to check in with students during the first few months of school.
Facilitate student-student connections
Students who are new to the building often benefit from having a “transition pal” or peer mentor who can “show them the ropes.” Nothing can be more intimidating for a new student than not knowing where the bathrooms are or which lunch line in the cafeteria is the best. A trained and supervised youth mentor (whether the same age or older) can give new students a building tour, engage them in school activities and continue to check in with them periodically throughout the year. Even better, mentors can help newcomers begin making friends.
If a new student has transferred into the district, make sure that his/her classmates have a role in extending the welcome. Ask classmates to imagine how they would feel if they were new to the building, and teach concrete behaviors they can use to ease the transition for the new student. Some of these may include:
  • Making and autographing a welcome sign or card
  • Introducing themselves
  • Introducing the new student to one’s friends
  • Engaging the new student in conversation, particularly to ask how s/he is doing in the new school and to offer advice
  • Inviting him/her to join a lunch table
  • Inviting him/her to play at recess
  • Helping the teacher give an orientation to classroom/school rules and procedures
Many schools also schedule structured activities where new students get to meet classmates and schoolmates in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Activities can include icebreakers, scavenger hunts, friendly competitions or games that encourage young people to work in teams to accomplish a goal.
Include parents in the transition process
Another great resource for getting to know new students is their parents. If your school hosts an open house at the beginning of the year, seek out these parents. If time at the open house is short, or if a student has transferred in after the year has already begun, arrange a time when you can discuss any concerns they have about the transition. Because students are often hesitant to admit that they’re having a hard time, parents may offer a more honest assessment of how students are dealing with the change.
You may learn that a new student really loves math, but struggles with it, or that he dislikes language arts class, despite being a talented writer. You may be able to suggest extracurricular groups the student would enjoy based on a parent’s suggestions.
Finally, remember to maintain a watchful eye throughout the school year. Check in with the young person and his/her parents to make sure things are going smoothly, and watch how s/he is adjusting both academically and socially. All of this will make the transition a better experience for the student.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Effective Praise: Give the Right Compliments to Students

The compliments that the majority of us are accustomed to blurting out when a child does something notable are precisely the type of compliments that can have unintended negative side effects. Studies suggest that complimenting children in this way can lead to a mindset that intelligence and certain admirable qualities are innate, or fixed (i.e., kids either have them or they don’t). One study demonstrated that kids who performed well on an easy test and were told, “You must be smart at this,” subsequently chose an easier test when given an option of two more tests to complete. In contrast, 90% of the students praised for effort voluntarily chose the more difficult test.
Fixed compliments are not only dangerous, but also counterproductive.
Here are some examples of these dangerous fixed compliments that paint a picture of innate traits:
  • You’re so smart!
  • You’re great at math!
  • You’re so good at writing!
  • You’re such a talented artist!
  • You’re a great reader!
That last one is especially toxic, and it becomes exceedingly clear once we follow the life of a well-intentioned compliment. First, you notice how well your child or student read and comprehended a particular paragraph. You say, “You’re a great reader!” The child absorbs this information, and if he or she is young enough, believes it. Sounds great, right? The problem is that’s just the beginning.
Studies suggest that once children have internalized this type of compliment and truly believe they are “great” at something, they not only put less effort into the task the next time (because they are clearly naturally talented at it), but as indicated above, they actually avoid more challenging tasks that employ that skill in the future. Perhaps most shocking is the mix of helplessness, self-blame and vulnerability children experience when a challenging task leads them to question the validity of fixed compliments, as evidenced in a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology.
What are we to do about this? I know that abandoning compliments is a hard sell. As indicated in the book NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children, one psychologist has even suggested that the infatuation with compliments is correlated with parents’ pride in their children’s accomplishments. Yes, abandoning compliments may seem like an unrewarding, strange and terrifying proposition, but it’s actually not the answer.
If you catch yourself making the mistake of complimenting a child or student for qualities that sound fixed or innate, and starting compliments with phrases like, “You’re so good at…” or “You’re such a great…” then there’s an exceedingly simple fix, even if you don’t believe any of the studies that have been conducted about the negative long-term effects of such compliments.
Compliment and praise children for how hard they are trying, not how good they are at something.
A dangerous compliment like “You’re so good at drawing” can easily turn into “I love how hard you are trying to draw a car that looks realistic!” Just don’t go overboard. Author and social psychologist Timothy Wilson suggest you use “minimally sufficient” compliments that are just strong enough to reinforce the activity, but not so strong that the child only works hard because he wants your compliments and praise. A compliment like “You are awesome at multiplication,” which is fraught with adverse, long-term consequences, can easily be changed to, “I really like watching you work so hard on memorizing your multiplication tables. It means a lot to me that you don’t give up on it.”
That way, the next time your “talented artist” struggles with a very basic drawing task, his internal narrative won’t be about how talented he is at drawing, but about how hard he tries with his drawings. When your “awesome multiplier” somehow forgets a few basic single-digit multiplication facts at school, she won’t doubt the sincerity of your praise or resign to the notion that she is awful at multiplication. Instead, her internal narrative, the one you helped her construct, will remind her that what makes her special when it comes to multiplication is not how great she is at it, but how hard she tries at it and how much she doesn’t give up on it.
Even those who look at the above-mentioned studies with skepticism and disbelief can still accept that complimenting and praising hard work and perseverance are beneficial practices with no adverse consequences. Even if some of us disagree with the idea of abandoning compliments about fixed qualities (e.g., “You’re so smart”), we can all agree that it is important to encourage effort in children.

Why “I-Messages” Can Backfire

I-messages, a communications tool that became popular in the 1970s, employ a simple—and simplistic—formula to directly connect emotions to someone else’s behavior: “When you (exhibit or neglect to exhibit a certain behavior), I feel (a certain feeling)” or “I feel _____ when you ____.” Some people advocate a third component, adding “…and I want you to (do this),” with the implicit message that “I will feel better if you do.”
I-messages have been promoted to offer an alternative to the seemingly more destructive “You-messages” that attack, blame, or criticize someone else. But although the wording is different, I-messages are really just You-messages in disguise, connecting my feelings with your behavior. They may start with (or include) the word I, but the statements carry the same energetic impact as messages of blame, ones which blatantly state, “You (or your behaviors) make me feel…” As such, I-messages simply give us new language for manipulation, blaming, and projecting. Even worse, they become a tool for self-victimization, as they present us as emotionally at the mercy of someone’s behavioral choices.
There is particular danger when we structure I-messages to suggest that the other person’s behavior is responsible for our feelings, especially when the statements carry the implication that we’d feel better if only the other person would act differently. Even if this were true, do you really want to communicate your vulnerability to someone who may not be willing to take responsibility for your emotional state, someone who may not care enough (or feel guilty enough) to change solely for its sake? Telling an angry or vengeful person “I feel terrible when you say such mean things to me” might well result in confirming for them, “Good! It worked!” Even if they don’t say it aloud, you have just reinforced the power they have to hurt you.
Although I-messages may sometimes seem to work, their outcomes can be quite costly to relationships. We certainly don’t want to burden others, especially children, with the overwhelming—and impossible—responsibility for our happiness and well-being. Remember that the journey of personal growth and self-responsibility typically involves learning to separate who we are, how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves from other people’s behaviors.
Granted, the formula typically used to create an I-message certainly has the attraction of a quick-fix solution, and may have a certain appeal to people who are concerned that simply asking for what we want—a behavior that is often discouraged in our culture—may seem a bit too aggressive or incendiary. There are, however, many ways to set a boundary, request a different behavior, or get what we want from others in our lives without bullying or manipulating them.
Others argue that using feelings to motivate others is more honest somehow than simply setting a boundary, asking for what you want, or requesting a particular behavior. However, many people who have been on the receiving end of an I-message report seeing this approach as extremely dishonest and manipulative. Several mentioned feeling more than a bit put-upon by having others attempt to dump responsibility for their emotional well-being on them. And more than one individual shared that this approach actually had the opposite effect, creating resentment and alienation, rather than compassion and cooperation!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Boundaries Are More Effective Than Rules

Rules certainly are familiar in a classroom setting. But there are simply too many places where the methods and dynamics of rule-making and enforcing just don’t fit in with my idea of win-win.
So what's the alternative? Is there a way for teachers to truly get what they want from their students without creating additional conflicts, resorting to traditional authoritarian power dynamics, or somehow compromising the emotional climate of the classroom?classroom management
I've discovered that the promise of positive outcomes is less destructive than the threat of negative consequences. And I've found that the most successful teachers are those able to ask for what they want with clarity, assertiveness, and great respect for the needs, preferences, and dignity of their students.
In many classrooms, the rules are invariably negative. Often the rule itself is stated negatively: “No hitting,” “Don’t call out,” “Eating in class is prohibited.” However, even when the rule is stated positively (“Turn in work on time,” “Speak respectfully,” “Raise your hand to speak”), the result of an infraction is typically negative. In some instances, the punishments— often called “consequences”—are listed right along with the rules.
Rules and penalties depend on the students’ fear of the negative consequences. If the child is afraid of a bad grade, missing recess, or having her name written on the board (which for most kids, simply reinforces attention-getting behavior), she may do what you want, often at a cost to her emotional safety and to the general stress level in the class.
In contrast, boundaries do not depend on fear or power, other than the teacher’s power to allow a positive consequence to occur when the students have done their part. This positivity represents an important characteristic of a boundary, as well as a significant difference between boundaries and rules. As a management tool in a win-win setting, boundaries are always stated positively, as promises rather than threats. Likewise, boundaries offer a refreshing change from punishment-oriented strategies to a reward-oriented approach to behavior management. Boundaries allow us to think of consequences as the good things students get (or get to do) as a result of their cooperation, changing the prevailing connotation of the word “consequence” from negative to positive.
classroom boundariesIn addition to being positive, boundaries support win-win power dynamics because they are themselves win-win. Even the most reasonable rules are oriented to the power needs of the adult, providing information for the students how not to “lose.” Rarely do rules communicate how students can “win” in any other, more positive way. Boundaries, on the other hand, take into consideration to the desires and needs of the students they attempt to motivate.
Additionally, boundaries are proactive, attempting to prevent problems in positive ways. Rules typically focus on the negative or punitive reaction of the teacher (or the system) when a student gets caught. Both rules and boundaries can prevent misbehavior, but because with rules the payoff to students for compliance is simply avoiding a negative consequence, the process of enforcement becomes unavoidably reactive. (This is why simply posting a bunch of rules, penalties, or punishments before kids misbehave is proactive only in forewarning of impending reactivity!)
With a boundary, a positive outcome simply does not happen unless the desired behavior occurs. The absence of the positive outcome— pending the student’s cooperation— is, in most cases, the only “teacher reaction” necessary.
The subtlety of the differences between boundaries and rules makes it easy to discount the impact each can have on the emotional climate in a classroom and the quality of the relationship between teachers and students. However, teachers who endeavor to shift from the win-lose familiarity of rules to the win-win prospects of boundaries report a significant decrease in conflicts and power struggles in their classes, and far greater success in reaching kids previously deemed difficult, unmotivated or, in some instances, even dangerous, than with any strategy previously attempted.

Ask Dr. Lynch: Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

Dr. Matthew Lynch
This week, reader Kristin G. asks:
I am a teacher in a culturally diverse elementary school in New York City. How can I create a culturally responsive environment for my students? What does classroom management look like in a culturally diverse environment?
Kristen, thank you for your question. I applaud your efforts to create a culturally responsive environment for your students. To begin, consideration of classroom management techniques is critical when building a culturally responsive learning environment. It is imperative that the instructor have a good grasp of culturally dependent interpersonal behaviors. Otherwise, it is possible that behaviors that are considered normal within the scope of a student’s culture will be misinterpreted as a behavioral problem or learning disability.
In general, it is likely that conflicts between teacher and students will arise if the teacher has not educated him- or herself about cultures and accompanying behavior patterns.
For instance, many Asian children are taught by their community that it is a sign of disrespect to look an adult in the eyes. On the other hand, in the European American community, it is considered a sign of disrespect if one doesn’t look the speaker in the eyes. If a teacher is not sensitive to such nuanced cultural differences, s/he may interpret a sign of respect in entirely the wrong way.
To further illustrate, consider the standard style of discourse in a European American classroom. Students are expected to sit quietly in rows of desks and absorb information that their teacher chooses to share with them. If a student wishes to participate, he is required to indicate this by raising his hand and waiting patiently until given permission to communicate.
On the other hand, in the African American culture, interaction is more assertive and straightforward. If an African American student blurts out the answer to a question without permission, a teacher in a traditional classroom would be likely to mistake profound interest in the material for deleterious rule-breaking. If the teacher quashes such culturally normal behavior, it serves to inform the student that her style of discourse is “wrong,” while the instructor’s style of discourse is “right.”
Instead of engaging in authoritarian classroom management techniques, an instructor in a culturally responsive classroom creates a caring, nurturing bond with students. In this environment, students think twice about jeopardizing their relationship with the instructor by making poor behavioral decisions. Potential methods for building rapport with students include spending time on connectedness-building games over the first few weeks of class, starting up conversations with students outside of class, and starting the class in a welcoming manner, despite whatever behavioral problems may have occurred during the last meeting of the class. This kind of amicable partnership between student and teacher tends to foster an optimal learning environment.