Powered by Blogger.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Planning for Your First Day at School

You're as ready as you'll ever be! Now what?
  • Arrive early! Give the classroom one last check. Turn on the lights and open the blinds.
  • Greet students at the door. Introduce yourself and welcome them. Smile!
  • As students arrive, hand them an assignment and ask them to get started immediately.
  • Help students prepare their own nametags. You'll find name tag templates among Education World's Back-to-School Templates.
  • Review, explain, and discuss school rules and procedures.
  • Work together to develop a list of classroom rules and consequences, or provide students with a copy of your class rules.
  • As you move through the day, explain and practice class routines.
  • Take pictures of students at work and play. Save some for Parents' Night and for student-of-the-week bulletin boards. Use others to start a class scrapbook.
  • Discuss class or individual goals and expectations. Younger students may enjoy hearing and discussing Judith Viorst's "The First Day" poem.
  • Try to include an activity that provides opportunities for students to interact or problem-solve. Check out the Education World article Icebreakers: Sixteen Getting to Know You Activities.
  • Congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Planning for Your First Day at School

Your classroom will be your home-away-from-home for the next nine months. You'll want it to reflect your personality, your educational philosophy, and your goals for your students. How do you do that? Consider some of these suggestions from veteran teachers.
Prepare bulletin boards. Most of your bulletin boards should be reserved for displaying student work. Simply cover the surfaces with butcher paper or a sturdy fabric and add a title and appropriate graphic. Depending on the grade level of your students, you might want to designate one bulletin board as a calendar board, which will remain constant throughout the year. Elementary and many middle school students also enjoy a student-of-the-week bulletin board. (To get the ball rolling, start with an autobiographical bulletin board of yourself!) For older students, consider setting aside a section of a bulletin board for posting the day's schedule, objectives, class assignments, homework, and upcoming events. Another section of the same board could hold a running assignment log and a handout folder (for students who are absent). For additional bulletin board ideas, check out the Education World article Your Search for Bulletin Board Ideas Is Over!
Set up the room. Desks and activity centers can be arranged in a number of ways, depending on your individual teaching style. You'll find some of the most common room arrangements, along with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each, at Creating an Effective Physical Classroom Environment, Teachers Helping Teachers: Classroom Management, and the Education World article Do Seating Arrangements and Assignments = Classroom Management? Assign seats, at least initially. It will help you learn students' names, establish mutual respect, and maintain classroom control.
Obtain student supplies. Depending on the grade level of your students, you may need paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, construction paper, rulers, or calculators. You'll also need textbooks and possibly workbooks. Be sure to count them!
Obtain teacher supplies. You'll probably need (among other things!) pens and markers, a stapler and staples, paper clips, tape, rubber bands, a plan book, a seating chart, hall passes, and attendance and lunch forms.
Post classroom information. Post your name, room number, and the grade or class you teach, both inside the classroom and outside the classroom door. If you have a telephone in your classroom, post important school numbers next to the phone. Include the main office, the nurse's office, and the phone numbers of nearby classrooms.
Although not, strictly speaking, part of preparing your classroom, this is also a good time to:
Review lesson plans. Look over your first day's lesson plans and obtain all necessary materials.
Prepare materials for students to take home the first day. These might include emergency data cards, a school welcome letter, a calendar showing the class specials schedule and upcoming events, a syllabus, and a homework assignment.
Check books out of the school or public library. Start a habit of reading aloud to your students for a few minutes each day, whatever their grade level!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Planning for Your First Day at School

Although it's not generally a good idea to clutter your classroom with framed family pictures or your collection of ceramic apples, there are a few personal items that can help you make it through the year. They include:
A diary. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down your thoughts and impressions about the day's events. Was there a lesson that went particularly well, or particularly badly? Why? Did a difficult discipline problem arise? How did you handle it? What was the result? What successes did you experience? What compliments did you receive? As the year progresses, the diary will help you identify what works and what doesn't word, and it will help you find alternate strategies. It will also document your growth as a teacher, something you may not recognize otherwise. Who knows? There might even be a book in it!
A personal appointment calendar. Yes, a date book will come in handy for reminding yourself of faculty meetings, PPTs, and scheduled observations. More importantly, it can be used to document the unscheduled events that crop up during the day, and often come back to haunt you weeks later. You might think you'll never forget the day Darrell's father called to complain about your discipline policies (the first time!), or that Tamika's mother stopped in to request a speech evaluation, or what you did when Patrick bloodied Jose's nose on the playground. But you will! Jot it down immediately in your date book. And keep the date book in, not on, your desk!
A personal survival kit. Store (out of reach of students!) a personal teacher survival kit. Include such items as a small sewing kit, safety pins, bandages, suntan lotion, change, snacks, tea bags or coffee singles, bottled water, breath mints, tissues, hand sanitizer, a spare pair of pantyhose (if appropriate!), sneakers and socks, a scarf and gloves, and any other items that will make bad days and minor catastrophes a little easier to deal with. None of those things are absolutely necessary to your success as a teacher, of course, but having them handy will make your life a lot less stressful.
A sturdy canvas bag to keep it all in.
Confidence breeds competence. You'll feel a lot better about facing that first day of school if you take the time to become familiar with the school and with the people you'll be working with. Before school starts:
Familiarize yourself with the school building and grounds. Sure the principal took you on a quick tour, but how much did you absorb, or remember? Take the time before school starts to retrace your steps. Locate the bathrooms (not just the one closest to your classroom!), the gym, the cafeteria, the media center, and the nurse's office. Note where they are in relation to your classroom. Ask where resource classes are held. Find the audio-visual equipment and supply closet and ask about checkout procedures. Take notes or draw yourself a map.
Visit the school Web site. A school Web site can provide valuable information about the school and community, as well as insight into what's expected of students and teachers.
Review school policies and procedures. Ask about any procedures that are unclear. Learn the reasons for any policies that don't seem to make sense. Every school has its own history and problems. You'll be better equipped to follow policies and procedures correctly if you understand the reasoning behind them.
Make friends with the school support staff. They're the best friends a new teacher can have. Introduce, or re-introduce, yourself. Remember names. Ask about attendance and lunch count procedures, if you're not sure about them. Find out how to get an e-mail address. Make it clear you expect to make mistakes at first and that you know they might be inconvenienced. Ask how you can make their lives easier. Bring doughnuts!
Make a friend. Choose a teacher at your grade level or in a nearby classroom and ask if he or she would be available to answer questions or give friendly advice during the first few weeks of school. Let that teacher know that you're open to suggestions and eager to learn.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Planning for Your First Day at School part-1

Planning for Your First Day at School

On the first day of school, the secret to success is in the planning, not the pedagogy. How's your back-to-school planning going? Have you forgotten anything? Our checklist can help! Included: Online resources for a variety of back-to-school planning needs, including welcome letters, bulletin board ideas, and back-to-school activities.
It's official. You're a teacher! You aced all your education courses, know the subject matter backward and forward, can rattle off the names and philosophies of dozens of educational theorists, and achieved a pretty respectable score on the state certification exam. You finally have an actual job and an official class list. There's only one problem. The first day of school is drawing near and you have no idea what to do. Are you really ready to face that first terrifying day?
The secret to success in any new endeavor is planning. But for this particular endeavor, don't just plan, over plan. Don't just prepare, over prepare. Don't just write enough lessons plans to fill one class or a single day. (They never do!) Write more than enough!
When it comes to planning ahead, of course, the secret to success is in the details. Use the checklist below to help you with any details you might have overlooked in planning for your first day at school as the teacher.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Starring: Sandy Hopkins

"We started in November, recalled physical education teacher Sandy Hopkins, and very soon many students and their parents were asking me about it. Later, when my students reflected about the activities in writing, their comments were all on the line of, It was so fun, I did not even know I was even working out,
What is causing the renewed interest in Hopkins' classes? Electronic games! The one-time archenemies of physical fitness, today's high-tech game systems actually can get kids excited about physical activity.
Hopkins first discovered the games use in physical education programs through published articles, but what convinced her to bring the games into her classes was watching her own son and his friends -- who are about five years older than her students -- play the games at home.
"I noticed how much my son and his friends enjoyed the games and how much physical exercise they were getting," Hopkins told Education World. "I thought the games were something my students would enjoy too, so I started pursuing grants to pay for them."
Today, thanks to a grant from an educational foundation at her school that supports innovative teaching ideas in the classroom, Hopkins' students play their way to physical fitness with "Dance, Dance, Revolution" and "EyeToy" for Sony's PlayStation 2.
Hopkins operates the games as a station, with 3-4 screens and dance mats. Six students typically use the station at one time, and those who are waiting to play use practice dance mats she has created out of carpets and tape. Jump ropes or stationary bikes are sometimes provided at the station as well. Every student is expected to remain active during the entire period.
Delaware Trail Elementary also uses the games for behavioral rewards with students. If selected students from the Brownsburg, Indiana, school have a good day or week, they may have dance or play time with the systems, which is supervised by the school counselor.
"Once I started, I found these systems easy to facilitate," reported Hopkins. "Of course, the younger the students, the more you have to help. The kiddos loved the activities and were excited when they saw the games. I was most surprised by how much the underactive students and those not so easily motivated loved the games." That is evident when Hopkins' less physically active students take positions at the game stations, sweat, and enjoy themselves so much they are reluctant to leave the activities.
With "Dance, Dance, Revolution," Hopkins selects the workout mode and chooses a song for her students. Hopkins recommends the Disney Channel edition of the game because it is age appropriate, and her students respond favorably to the songs and characters. Hopkins currently is investigating the benefits of the Nintendo WII, which wasn't available at the time of her initial purchase.
"Be patient and try the systems at home first to get accustomed to them," she advises oth

Monday, 25 November 2013

Starring: Angie Malley

Far-out Teacher Angie Malley still smiles when parents of her kindergarten students tell stories about how the children continue to care for their pet rocks at home, many days after the class's unique 70th Day celebration. This year, Malley's students at Poplarville (Mississippi) Lower Elementary marked the seventieth day of school with a 1970s-themed event.

"Our state curriculum requires that students be exposed to diverse people, culture, and changing environments," Malley told Education World. "To help meet those goals, our school had special celebrations for the 50th day and the 100th day. With 50 days in between those two events, I decided to groove it up a little and celebrate the 70th day of school too. I shared the idea with other members of my team, and they joined in." Malley's kindergarten class is filled with active learners, and she strongly believes that their learning experiences should be fun. She uses special events like 70th Day as incentives, and finds that student participation is higher when they have those occasions to look forward to. After all, who wouldn't be motivated by the prospect of dancing to "YMCA," the 1978 tune by the Village People?

"I researched different inventions and toys from this era," shared Malley. "While wearing tie-dyed shirts, my students rotated through centers that included dancing, making pet rocks, playing the game of Twister, playing with Hot Wheels, and face painting. We talked about how times have changed; however, the students quickly realized that reading, writing, and other school subjects were important then and now."
The event was so much fun that students never noticed they were learning and practicing essential stills. Their excellent behavior is just one reason that Malley says 70th Day is here to stay -- the kids really "dig" it!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Starring: Nancy Karpyk

"Children have a natural curiosity about their surroundings," says Nancy Karpyk. "They are fascinated with animals, snow, rainbows, rockets, and even eggs. I realized early in my career that science is like magic. Children are as eager to participate in science demonstrations and labs as they are to be a part of a magician's show."
Science also creates a positive classroom climate, reports the kindergarten teacher from Weirton (West Virginia) Heights School. Her students are anxious to come to school and check on the fish in their aquarium, plants in the window garden, caterpillars in a jar, and potato hidden from light. They love to read non-fiction books, search the Internet for information, and ask questions.
Nancy Karpyk uses science demonstrations and units to capture the attention of her lively kindergartners.
Karpyk's students are so involved in science topics that there is little time for daydreaming. She correlates her science themes -- which set the framework for much of her curricular activities -- to the children's environment. In the fall, they study leaves and pumpkins. In winter, they wonder about snow, penguins, and bears. Spring brings rain, rainbows, and recycling. "Once students are engaged, it is easy to teach data collection, sorting, graphing, and inquiry. It is surprising how kindergarten students begin to understand and use problem-solving skills," shared Karpyk. "Stations are organized around the science themes. Science gives students something real to write about in their journals."
Art projects and other activities in Karpyk's class always reflect the current science focus. Students especially enjoy working with her husband's chemistry students. The high schoolers visit the classroom and help kindergartners make slime, Silly Putty, Shrinky Dinks, and ice cream.
Karypyk realizes that primary teachers rarely have a science budget, so all her demonstrations and activities feature inexpensive household items. She encourages other educators to use science demonstrations to grab students' attention and is working on a book for teachers in grades K-2. The key is to start with a unit that appeals to you, she advises. You never can know how or when a student might be affected by what you teach. For example, Karpyk recently learned that one of her kindergarten science units came in handy during a true emergency.
"The mother of a former student told me that her daughter was jogging and was attacked by a large dog. When she was attacked, she dropped to the ground, rolled into a ball, and protected her neck and face with her arms and hands," Karpyk reported. "The emergency room doctor asked Julie how she knew what to do. She replied that she remembered when I had taught the class about bears and bear attacks. We had also discussed that this would help in the event of a dog attack. The emergency room doctor told Julie that her teacher had saved her life."

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Teachers, Start Your Engines: Management Tips from the Pit Crew

Professional Development Who said classroom management has to be boring? The editors at Education World offer 20 successful classroom management strategies to get your year off to a great start and keep your classroom running smoothly throughout the entire year. Included: 20 tips for taking attendance, motivating students, rewarding good behavior, and more!

Every teacher knows that the right strategies can make the difference between a calm classroom and a classroom in constant chaos. Teachers in well-organized classrooms in which students know and follow clearly defined rules and routines spend less time disciplining and more time teaching. To help keep your classroom running like a well-oiled machine in the coming year, we've collected some successful -- and often fun -- classroom management techniques from teachers across the country and around the world.


Words of welcome. Many teachers have found that the best way to start each day is by greeting students at the door. A warm personal welcome sets the tone for the day and gives the teacher a chance to assess each student's mood and head off problems before they start. One teacher reports that she offers her younger students a choice of three greetings -- a handshake, a high five, or a hug. Their responses, she says, tell her a lot about how each student is feeling that day. A sea of calm. Kids who arrive at school wound up or upset often calm down, experienced teachers say, if classical music is playing as they enter the classroom. Some teachers also turn the lights down low and project the morning's brainteaser or bell ringer activity onto the chalkboard with an overhead projector. That spotlight in the dimly lit room helps focus students' attention on the day ahead.


For most teachers, there are never enough hours in a day. Saving even a few minutes of your time can make a big difference in what you accomplish this year. On the move. Increase flexibility in seat assignments -- and make life easier for substitutes -- by creating a visual seating chart. Take a digital photograph of each child in the class. Print the photos and write the student's name at the bottom. Attach a Velcro dot to the back of each photo and to a seating chart created on laminated poster board. The Velcro allows seats to be changed as necessary, and substitutes love being able to easily identify each student.
Make it up. When distributing work sheets, place copies in folders for absent students. At the end of the day, simply label each folder with the absent students' names, and missed work is ready for the students' return.
Would you sign in, please? Avoid time-consuming attendance routines by following the technique used by a Washington teacher. Write each child's name on a strip of tag board, laminate it, and glue a magnet to the back. Each day, post a question and possible answers on a whiteboard. Students can "sign in" by placing their magnets in the appropriate answer column. Questions might be personal, such as "Do you own a pet?"; trivial, such as "What was the name of the Richie's mother on Happy Days?"; or curriculum related.
Make attendance count. If you prefer to take attendance individually, make it meaningful. Instead of calling out students' names and waiting for them to say "Here," ask each student a quick question related to the previous day's work.


The average teacher spends $400 a year of his or her own money on classroom supplies. At that price, holding on to the supplies you have can be a priority. But who has time to search every child's backpack for borrowed pencils? These teacher-tested techniques can save your money and your sanity. Forget-me-nots. A South Dakota teacher uses floral tape to attach large silk flowers to the tops of the pens and pencils she keeps for student use -- turning the writing tools into hard-to-forget flowers. The "flowers," kept in a vase on the teacher's desk, also serve to brighten up the room.
Do you have a shoe to spare? If you find the flower pens cumbersome, try the technique used by an Iowa teacher. She allows students who forget their pens or pencils to borrow one -- if they give her one of their shoes. Students only get the shoe back when they return the pencil. No half-shod student ever forgets to return that borrowed pencil!
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. This tip comes from one of Education World's regular contributors. It developed, says Brenda Dyck, because she grew tired of dealing with students who came to class without pencils, texts, or homework. In Dyck's classroom, each student starts the term with 100 points toward a "Preparedness Grade." If they come to class with a pen or pencil, textbook, and completed homework, they get to keep the 100 points. Every time they show up without any one of those things, however, one point is subtracted from their grade. The students' report cards include a category called "preparedness," which counts toward their final grade. "For some reason, keeping their 100 points is quite motivational for my middle school students," Dyck says. "Unprepared students have become almost nonexistent in my classes. I've been amazed!"


Discipline problems, experienced teachers say, can be greatly reduced if students are properly motivated -- to come to school, to arrive on time, and to work diligently while they're there. Some simple techniques can make doing the right thing even more fun than misbehaving. Round 'em up. First you have to get them there. Discourage absenteeism by randomly choosing one student's desk or chair each day and placing a sticker beneath it. The student who arrives to find the sticker under his or her seat gets to choose a small prize. If the student is absent, of course, the prize is forfeited. (And the other students are always happy to pass along that news!)
Don't be late. A teacher in California discourages tardiness by inviting students who are not in their seats when the bell rings to go to the front of the room and sing a song. "Sometimes we have a duet, a trio, and even a choir," she says. "It puts a smile on everyone's face and starts the class in an upbeat way. And no one has been more than 30 seconds late since I started using this technique!"
Can you spell homework? A simple group motivation technique can be helpful in encouraging students to complete their homework. Every day all students in the class complete their homework assignments, write one letter of the word homework on the chalkboard. When the word is completed, treat the entire class to a special reward.
Not a minute to waste. Do you find yourself losing precious minutes as you attempt to change activities, line up for specials, or return from recess? Tell students that they are going to be rewarded for the time they don't waste during the day. Explain that you will give them 3 minutes a day of wasted time. They can use up that time each day or save it up and use it for something special. Agree on something students could do with the "wasted" time and decide how much time they will need to save for that special event. Tell students that as soon as they've saved the required amount of time, they will be able to hold their special event. Each day, give students three minutes. When they waste time during the day, start a stopwatch, time the amount of time wasted, and subtract it from the three minutes. You'll be surprised at how quickly your students learn the value of a minute!
The door swings out. Sometimes it seems as though you have a swinging classroom door -- leading straight to the restroom. How do you determine if those restroom requests are legitimate or just an excuse to leave the room? Stop guessing! You can discourage middle and high school students from asking to leave the room unnecessarily by providing an unwieldy or embarrassing hall pass. Some suggestions: an old wooden toilet seat or a huge stuffed animal.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Classroom Management: Ten Teacher-Tested Tips

Classroom Management:
Ten Teacher-Tested Tips

Hallway conferences. Pasta discipline. Buddy rooms. Bell work. Those and six other ideas for taming temper tantrums -- and other classroom disruptions -- are the focus of this Education World story! Included: An opportunity for all teachers to share the classroom management techniques that work for them!

Sally McCombs has been teaching for more than 18 years. These days, she seldom has a discipline problem that she can't handle. That wasn't always the case, however.
McCombs recently recalled for Education World an experience from her early teaching days. "There was a student who was driving me crazy," she said. "He was arrogant and disruptive, but my good friend -- who also taught him -- had no trouble with him. So I asked her what her secret was, and she simply said 'You have to like him.'
"Notice," McCombs emphasized, the teacher said, "You don't have to love him, just like him -- but it has to be real. I've tried to keep that in mind since then," added McCombs, a teacher at LEAP Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "I deal with kids differently when I really like them, even if I don't like their behavior. There is generally something to appreciate in every kid.
"I've had to realize that letting kids get away with things they know are wrong is not kind," McCombs explained. "Students need structure. They need to trust us, and that means we have to keep our promises, even if the promise is that you will call home or assign punishments."
McCombs has found a classroom management approach that works for her -- and she was willing to share her experiences for the benefit of others. So were other educators who have found classroom peace. Today, Education World shares ten teacher-tested tips for managing a classroom. One of them might be perfect for you to try this fall in your classroom!

Nancy Landis, a fourth-grade teacher at Oskaloosa (Kansas) Elementary School, has found a technique for quieting rambunctious kids that works well for her. As many other teachers do, she uses a simple counting technique. "I wear a stopwatch around my neck, and when the noise gets to an unacceptable level, I hold up the stopwatch and begin timing," said Landis.
"There is always a student who is aware of what I have done, and the word spreads quickly," explained Landis. "I never need to say a word; they regulate themselves. They know the time that has accumulated on the watch is the time they 'owe' before they can have recess." If the students respond quickly, Landis doesn't count the time on the watch against them.
Many other teachers employ variations of this technique. Some count aloud. One teacher we know counts aloud in Japanese -- and the counting doesn't stop until all the students join in. She changes the language each month, so children learn to count in a new language while they manage their own behavior!
Another "countdown" teacher sets a goal for the counting time that a given class can accumulate. During the first week of school, that goal might be 200 seconds; the goal might decrease by 25 seconds each week, until it is down to 100 seconds a day at the end of the first month. If the students don't accumulate that many seconds of owed-time, he shares a "joke of the day." He says the kids hate to miss out on the joke -- even if it is a groaner! Unlike the more-concrete awards some teachers provide, this award cost him only the price of a good joke book!
Most teachers agree that the key to making the countdown technique work is to set a goal and stick to it. The first time the kids lose out might be hard on the teacher who realizes that just one or two students have spoiled things for the others. Peer pressure works amazingly well, however -- on the following day, the students are bound to do better!
Charles Kruger teaches at Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles. When a student is being difficult, he employs a technique called a "hallway conference." It's a technique Kruger learned in a seminar offered by Lee Canter Associates.
"I go to the doorway -- slowly because I want the class to watch -- and call the student to the hallway," Kruger explained. "The other students are quiet -- they want to see what is going to happen."
When Kruger and the student get together in the hallway, the conversation goes something like this:
Kruger: I care very much about your success in my class, (student's name), and I'm concerned that you seem to be headed into trouble today. You have (here Kruger lists the offense or offenses), and I know you know that is against the rules. Is something going on today that is giving you a special problem? Can I help?
Student: (At this point, the student is usually disarmed and often responds "no." At other times, the student might present a problem. In either case, Kruger will usually continue ...)
Kruger: I'm glad there isn't a problem. (Alternative response: I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps we can deal with that later.) Right now, this is what you have to do: Go back to your seat and (whatever the assigned task is), and don't give me any more problems today. Can you do that?... Are you sure?... Good. I'm glad we're going to be able to keep you out of trouble."
Kruger and the student return to the classroom as Kruger gives the student a big smile and says enthusiastically and clearly so the rest of the class can hear.
Kruger: Thank you, (student's name).
"At first I was concerned that some students anxious for extra attention would provoke hallway conferences, and that does happen," Kruger noted. "But the other students seem to understand, and the student who needs extra attention gets it. If a student is persistent, I try to find other ways of giving him or her extra attention. Even a little attention, such as making a point of greeting the student by name or asking for help with a chore, can significantly reduce some problem behaviors."

Monday, 18 November 2013

Goal Setting 101: Understanding the Process

Goal Setting 101: Understanding the Process

Often it's the non-academic curriculum that's most helpful in preparing students for life. Reading and math are important, but organizational skills, social skills, and a knack for finding information on the Internet can lead to big payoffs as well. One area we often overlook, however, is teaching our students how to set goals and create action plans for themselves. Many of us never were taught how to set goals for ourselves, and we only discovered the power of goal-setting later in life. But with a little creativity, we can adapt the strategies used by successful adults and share them with our students.


Teaching students to set personal goals begins with teaching them to believe in themselves. Many students arrive in our classrooms with a limited view of their own abilities. Before we can teach them to set high goals for themselves, we have to remove those limitations from their thinking. We have to teach them to believe in themselves, because without that belief, they arent likely to achieve their goals. In order to achieve, you must first believe.
So, how can we encourage our students to embrace a future full of unlimited possibilities? Start by showing them how others have overcome obstacles and achieved their goals. Seek out inspirational stories of people who are important to your students, and share those stories with them. Biographies often detail the amazing accomplishments of great people, but a biography of Thomas Edison might not be the best way to inspire today's generation. You'll find newspapers and magazines to be equally rich sources of inspirational stories.
The Olympics provided the perfect opportunity to highlight stories of athletes who have come from humble backgrounds and risen to greatness. How about success stories of singers or movie stars? Seventeen magazine recently featured an inspirational interview with pop singer Taylor Swift, in which she described how she wrote out a very specific set of personal goals long before she became a star. Those stories are everywhere when you start looking for them. Books like Chicken Soup for the Childrens Soul (or Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul) are filled with short inspirational stories that demonstrate the power of belief in oneself and one's abilities. Challenge your students to seek out and share such stories with the class.


When you feel your students are ready to start setting goals for themselves, introduce them to the goal-setting process. First, make sure they know what a goal is by asking students to volunteer goals they or their friends have set for themselves in the past. List their ideas on the board, and discuss the difference between long-term and short-term goals. Short-term goals might include reading a difficult book, earning a perfect score on a spelling test, or arriving at school on time each day for a month. Long-term goals could include goals for the school year, earning a scholarship to college, or dreams about future careers.
Then tell your students that many successful athletes, singers, writers, and business people have discovered a method for achieving their goals, and it's so easy that your students can learn those goal-setting secrets themselves. Display a poster or chart of the Secrets of Goal Setting while you review the steps with your students.
Secrets of Goal Setting
  1. Write clear and measurable goals.
  2. Create a specific action plan for each goal.
  3. Read your goals daily and visualize yourself accomplishing them.
  4. Reflect on your progress to see if you are on target.
  5. Revise your action plans if needed.
  6. Celebrate your accomplishments.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

In-School Suspension: A Learning Tool

In-School Suspension: A Learning Tool

While educators agree that keeping suspended students in school is better than having them home unsupervised, schools need more than a room and a teacher for in-school suspension to change behavior. Structured programs that address multiple issues can help students get back to class faster and stay there. Included: Tips for creating successful in-school suspension programs.
As schools strive to keep more students in school, even disruptive ones, in-school suspension programs are seeing more students. But there is a big difference between having an in-school suspension program and having an effective one, educators and researchers said.
"The big plus of an in-school suspension program is that students are still in school, with all the potential for engaging them," said Anne Wheelock, a research associate with the Progress Through the Education Pipeline Project at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. "Suspending students out of school means schools pass up the 'teachable moment' when they can connect with students, build relationships, and communicate that they belong in school.

"Having said that, in-school suspension programs can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension numbers," Wheelock continued. "Poorly conceived and inadequately staffed programs, even though they are better than out-of-school suspensions, may be little more than holding tanks -- just a pro-forma stop on the route to out-of-school suspension or exclusion."


The unappealing idea of students serving out-of-school suspensions roaming their communities during the day, possibly getting into more trouble, prompted some schools to create or expand their in-school suspension programs. In Louisiana, state officials became so concerned about suspended students missing instructional time that the legislature began funding in-school suspension programs.
The Kentucky Department of Education encourages school districts to develop policies that include well-rounded academic offerings for those students who stay in school during suspension.
The most effective in-school suspension programs have components to address students' academic and social needs, educators said, since frequently, suspended students have both academic and behavioral problems.
At the same time, in-school suspension often remains the final step before out of school suspension.
To be an effective learning tool, in-school suspension programs "should be one part of a school-wide strategy for creating and sustaining a positive, nurturing school climate, based on respectful relationships between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, students and students," Wheelock said. "Such a strategy would acknowledge that conflicts of all kinds occur in schools and should be based on a thoughtful set of approaches to resolving conflict and solving problems."
According to Wheelock, characteristics of good ISS programs include:
  • Ways to ensure in-school suspension is appropriate; in-school suspension is unlikely to resolve a truancy or homework completion problem that should be resolved through other means.
  • A term limit; students should not be suspended indefinitely.
  • Problem-solving and/or mediation (including peer mediation) sessions among teachers and students or students and students, which result in written contracts that spell out future expectations.
  • Ensuring students come to the program with academic assignments to complete.
  • Professionals to staff the program, such as a teacher who can assess students for unidentified learning difficulties, assist in assignment completion, and by a counselor who can explore root causes of problems, refer students to community services, and engage with parents.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Goal Setting 101: The Process in Action

The best way to help students see the goal-setting process in action is to set a class goal and work together to achieve it.

As any effective teacher knows, telling isnt teaching. Simply telling your students about the goal-setting process is not going to help them learn to set goals for themselves. The best way to help students see the process in action is to set a class goal and work together to achieve it.
Have your class brainstorm a variety of class goals they might want to achieve over a period of several days or weeks. Appropriate goals might be to have everyone in the class learn their times tables, read a certain number of books, or raise money for an important cause. After your class has decided on a goal, help them word their goal in clear and measurable terms. For example, Our class will read 100 books before October 1st."
Then create an action plan with several specific steps. Remind your class that an action plan involves, you guessed it -- action! You have to take action to reach your goals, and each step in the plan must be something that you do. For the above goal, an action plan might include asking each student to read one book per week for five weeks, and having students record their reading in home reading logs; spending 30 minutes per day of class time reading; and making a chart to track class progress.
The third step of the goal-setting process is to have students read the goal daily and visualize themselves reaching that goal. Display the class goal and action plan in a prominent area. Each morning review the goal and discuss any actions to be taken during the day. A class progress chart can help with that step. For example, students might color one square on a Hundred Board chart for each book they read, visualizing how the board will look when its completely colored.
As you track your progress, you and your class might notice that your original action plan isnt working quite the way you planned. If that is the case, take time to revise your action plan and brainstorm new strategies. Dont be afraid to eliminate any parts of the plan that just arent producing results.
When you reach your class goal, be sure to celebrate in some way. A celebration isnt always a party, and it doesnt have to cost money. Celebrating can be taking a few minutes to bask in your success. Ask your principal to recognize your class on the intercom or publish a short write-up in the school newspaper. Do a special class activity or present your class with an award at the next Open House. The more students celebrate their successes and focus on their accomplishments, the more likely they are to achieve their future goals.

Friday, 15 November 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!

Thursday, 14 November 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?


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

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

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 teach 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."

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Author's Picks: Must-Read Books For Elementary Students

The Author's Picks: Must-Read Books For Elementary Students

Curriculum Center Are you looking for books to recommend to your elementary school students? Recently, Education World asked those in the know -- the authors of some of today's best-loved children's books -- to share their personal favorites with you. Whether the author's choices are fondly remembered childhood treasures or recently-discovered literary masterpieces, you and your students won't want to miss these hot picks for classroom reading! Included: Recommendations from authors Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, Jon Scieszka, and Linda Sue Park. Recently, the editors at Education World asked some of our favorite authors of children's books to share their reading highlights with you.
In response, Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, Jon Scieszka, and Linda Sue Park reveal their favorite books for elementary school children, discuss how they discovered those books, and explain each book's appeal to young readers. Who knows more, after all, about what will entertain children and motivate them to read than these literary experts?
Next week, Beverly Cleary, Jennifer Holm, Susan Katz, Lois Lowry, and Jean Craighead George share their best book picks for "young adult" readers.

Today, Yolen is herself the author of several books for children, including The Emperor and the Kite, a 1968 Caldecott Honor Book, and Owl Moon, the 1988 Caldecott winner. She still remembers The Red Fairy Book, however, and suggests that children check out the entire series of The Color Fairy Books edited by Andrew Lang.
"The stories come from all over the world, and they are filled with magic, wisdom and wonder," Yolen told Education World. "The drawings -- both in color and black-and-white -- are incredible too; they serve the magic of the stories well."


Children's poet Kenn Nesbitt is another author who knows what kids like; his latest book of poetry, The Aliens Have Landed!, features "kangaruplets," skunks in love, and antigravity machines! Another book Nesbitt encourages kids to read is Bubblegum Delicious by Canadian poet Dennis Lee.
"Whenever I'm in a bookstore I like to look through the children's poetry section to see what's new," said Nesbitt. "I was at a bookstore in Seattle, and found this collection that I had never seen before. I bought it, expecting it to be nothing special. Boy, was I ever wrong! It is an amazing book of children's poetry."
Nesbitt reports that this book is heartwarming, funny, and very well written. The poems range from bedtime lullabies to childhood fantasies to charming nonsense to humorous flights of fancy.
"This book literally had me laughing out loud on one page and crying on the next," Nesbitt stated. "Younger children will enjoy that it is mostly written from the world-view of a 4-year-old and is rich with lush, colorful illustrations. The poems include playful stories of hunting bad guys, whimsical daydreams of pollywogs in parachutes, tales of friendship and loneliness, and lots, lots more. If I could recommend only one book of poetry for younger children, this would be it."


Author Jon Scieszka, who has a special interest in finding excellent books that hold the attention of boys, reported that his "favorite children's book at the moment" is Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice, The Hidden Past by Jude Watson. The third book in a series of Star Wars tales, "The Hidden Past" is a paperback with a flashy cover -- "the familiar Star Wars logo in gold over a photo collage of two of the characters from the most recent movies," Scieszka explained. "The writing is workmanlike, the action heroic, and the dialogue brief. There are plenty of references to 'The Force,' and both an iron-on transfer picture and a mail-in book club offer are bound into the book."
The book, according to Scieszka, the author of the 1993 Caldecott Honor Book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Math Curse, and more, is not one he would ever have thought to buy and read. He did so, he said, because an 8-year-old boy wrote to him recommending it as "his best book ever."
"Ive been collecting just these kind of recommendations at my Web site GUYSREAD for about a year now," said Scieszka. "And I think the single most important thing Ive learned and remembered is that kids learn to read best by finding what they love to read. Heres to helping more kids find their 'best book ever'... no matter what it is."

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Homeschooling: Examining a Growing Trend

Homeschooling: Examining a Growing Trend

A growing number of families are choosing to homeschool their children. Education World examines the pros and cons of this trend. Last summer Holly and Beau Doherty wrestled with a major decision: whether to homeschool their daughter Julia or have her continue in public school. They did as much research as possible and made their call. Come September, Julia, who is now 11, began homeschooling, with Holly teaching.
Julia sums up the experience this way: "I really like homeschooling. You're not in competition with other kids all the time, and you work at your own speed. One thing is I miss my friends sometimes, but I can still invite them over, and I've made new friends who homeschool, too."
Holly Doherty, too, finds Julia learns better when she works at her own pace and praises the homeschooling curriculum they have selected (from Oak Meadow School in Brattleboro, Vermont).
But the Dohertys, who live in Connecticut, don't think homeschooling is right for every family.
"There are no real disadvantages to homeschooling," Holly Doherty says, "but it demands a tremendous commitment from the teaching parent. You have to learn the materials and, in some areas, you'll want to think of your own activities. You have to do a lot of work."


Approximately 1,230,000 U.S. children are being taught at home, according to data in a study conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Oregon. Homeschooling seems to be a growing trend throughout the country; but, compared with the number of children in public and private schools, the number being homeschooled is relatively small.
Yet anecdotal evidence abounds of individual success stories in homeschooling. For example, some parents whose children had disciplinary problems in public school say that when those children work at their own pace, they don't become bored and thus don't cause problems during school time.


Homeschooling doesn't always occur at home. It may take place in the home or in another place in the community. It may involve just one child, several siblings, or any number of children whose parents or guardians decide to pursue an alternative to public or private schools. A number of charter schools have been established by parents to homeschool children in a group.

Michigan is the only state requiring certified teachers to take part in homeschooling programs, and the state lets parents choose a teacher and doesn't demand a minimum level of teacher supervision. The state has excused parents who object on religious grounds from the certification requirement.


Homeschooling, and its growth, has generated some controversy. As with any issue in education, its advocates tend to be strongly in favor of it, and its opponents tend to be strongly opposed.
Researchers can't say for sure whether homeschooled children would do better or worse academically in traditional schools because it is difficult to get a representative sample of homeschooled students. Yet the results when homeschoolers take state-mandated tests show that although some homeschoolers test below average, a larger number test above average. The problem with evaluating this information is that there is no way of knowing if children who tested above average might have done as well or better if they were enrolled in public school.
How well-adjusted are homeschool children? Opponents point out that children who are homeschooled spend more time with adults and children of different ages and less time with same-age children. But research has not indicated that homeschooling hurts children's social or psychological development. In fact, some homeschooled children show better social adustment than their peers in traditional schools. Homeschooling children generally make social contact in various ways, including homeschool support groups, clubs, recreational activities, and religious affiliations.
Will homeschoolers be accepted at the college of their choice? In a 1994 telephone poll conducted by Patricia M. Lines, senior research analyst at the National Institute on Educational Governance, Finance, Policymaking and Management, a group of admissions officers from large universities and colleges said they were willing to consider applications from homeschooled students. In addition, homeschool associations may help by providing contacts with college students who were also homeschooled.
In the past homeschoolers have often missed out on special programs. Homeschooling parents and students are working with state officials to obtain access to programs in sports and extracurricular activities, and many of those programs are now open to homeschoolers.
Finally, the advantages of homeschooling, if it's handled responsibly and intelligently by the teaching parent or another teacher, can be considerable for certain children. Yet to say that some children do achieve more educationally when homeschooled is not to say that public school and private school don't serve other children very well. The parent's responsibility, then, is not to reject a certain type of school but to choose the approach that best suits the child/student and the family.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Beyond the Bake Sale: Parents Can Make the Difference in Countless Ways

Beyond the Bake Sale: Parents Can Make the Difference in Countless Ways

Curriculum Center Everybody wins when parents volunteer ! Kevin Walker, the founder of Project Appleseed, a nonprofit organization, is helping schools involve parents. The organization has created a list of 37 different ways parents can help and is on its way to recruiting 5 million parent volunteers nationwide. Included: The Project Appleseed Parental Involvement Pledge.
PARENTS WANTED: Openings for volunteers at all schools. Many opportunities are available. Compensation: Countless rewards, including enhanced dialogue between parents and teachers, improved student behavior, and greater student commitment to academic achievement. All parents please apply.
Kevin Walker, a parent of four school-aged children and a former presidential campaign organizer from St. Louis, Missouri, has always been active in his children's schools. He has continued to volunteer at a neighborhood elementary school after his youngest child moved up to the middle school. Walker knows first-hand the difference a volunteer can make.

The Parental Involvement Pledge

AS A PARENT, GRANDPARENT, OR CARING ADULT, I hereby give my pledge of commitment to help our community's children achieve a truly independent future. My declaration of responsibility and commitment to my public schools is stated in these five self-evident truths as spoken by President Woodrow Wilson: * As parents, we are the owners of the public school system.
* As owners, we bear a responsibility to participate in the system.
* Accountability for our public schools, their safety, their employees, and their funding rests with us and the rest of the system's owners.
* Our children's future depends on the improvement of the public schools.
* This improvement depends on our participation.
THEREFORE, AS A PARENT, GRANDPARENT, OR CARING ADULT, I take personal responsibility for my child's safety and education and the safety and education of the children in this community.
I pledge to volunteer a minimum of five hours of my time to my public schools each semester. I pledge to spend a minimum of 15 minutes each school night reading with my child, or we will work together on homework and enrichment activity.
Walker's insight isn't new: Many studies herald parental involvement as an essential element of successful schools. When parents work with their children's schools, teachers have more support, and children learn by example that education matters! In 1991, Walker combined his commitment to parent-school volunteerism with his professional campaign experience to create Project Appleseed, a nonprofit organization. The organization helps schools and parents promote parent volunteerism by distributing the Parental Involvement Pledge (See sidebar.), parent self-assessment evaluations, and a list of 37 volunteer opportunities at schools.


The pledge really works, Walker maintains. At first, he thought it was a little hokey. The success of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) convinced him, though. If it worked for MADD, Walker thought, it might work for schools too.
The reason the pledge has been effective is that parents have a variety of ways to help at school. Many parents say they are too busy to sit through meetings, so they don't volunteer because they don't want to commit to joining a school organization, Walker explained.
"The use of the pledge removes the barrier to parent involvement," Walker said. Schools can purchase a parental involvement tool kit from Project Appleseed or download the pledge from the Web site. Some schools use the Project Appleseed pledge, and others use it to help create their own school pledges.
Walker credits this approach for being particularly effective in many economically disadvantaged school districts. Some parents may feel they have nothing to offer or feel intimidated by the school. There is something for everybody on the long list of ways parents can help out at their children's school. Some activities Walker suggests parents could volunteer for at school include the following:

Friday, 8 November 2013

What Ive Learned About Cultivating Parent Involvement

What Ive Learned About Cultivating Parent Involvement

Voice of Experience Educator Max Fischer has found that successful teaching often hinges on employing a wide variety of instructional methods to meet student needs. In this Voice of Experience essay, Fischer reflects on how getting parents involved in their students education also requires a variety of approaches. Included: Eight things Fischer has learned about working with parents!

Last winter, I read a newspaper editorial by columnist George Will that almost made me do back flips like those John Beluschi did in The Blue Brothers. Will, a champion of vouchers and a frequent critic of public education, seemed to have seen the light in a column in which he decried the 9/91 factor. Simply put, in the first eighteen years of life, students spend a mere nine percent of their time in school; the other ninety-one percent represents the extraordinary influence that the home and outside environment exerts on a students engagement with learning.
Finally, I cheered, the press -- a conservative commentator at that -- had caught on to the reality that most educators live with each day: We cant educate students in a vacuum; education must be a collaborative effort between home and school.


Before the back flips could do irreparable damage to my spine, I was reminded that schools often do a poor job of reaching out to parents. The yellow smiley face at the school entrance reminds visitors to register at the office; the implicit message is, in many cases, You are now entering The System. Dont interfere with our business (and well try not to interfere with yours).
In A New Generation of Evidence: the Family is Critical to Student Achievement, (National Committee for Citizens in Education, 1994), Anne T. Henderson and Nancy Berla located critical evidence that family involvement, not social status or income, is the vital component in student success. Unfortunately, they found the opposite to be true as well. If schools disparage parents or treat them as negative influences, or cut them out of their childrens education, they promote attitudes in the family that prohibit achievement in school. Parents who stay out, or drop out, of their childrens school experience send a potent, subliminal message to their offspring: This institution isnt worthy of my time, therefore why waste your time.
Middle schools and high schools are extremely vulnerable to this phnomena as many parents are prone to disengage from the educational process by the end of their childrens elementary progress. Some studies report that in suburban communities, where education is usually highly valued, as many as forty percent of parents never visit their child's middle or high school.


Educators, especially those at the secondary level, cant expect the obligatory open house and parent conferences to suffice when trying to connect with parents. They must be proactive in launching a counteroffensive that targets parents as essential partners in the education of their sons and daughters.
With that in mind, I have developed some basic Dos and Donts for increasing parental engagement. Maybe some of these techniques have been successful for you too!
  • Do make an initial call home within the first two weeks of school. Generally speaking, a call home very early in the year to check with parents on their childs adjustment to your (elementary) classroom or secondary school program sends a powerful message: I want your involvement in your childs education, and I need to collaborate with you for the benefit of your child. This non-threatening communication also lays a groundwork that makes subsequent discussion of delicate issues of discipline or homework easier to broach.
  • Do communicate whats going on within your classroom on a regular basis. Monthly (at least quarterly) newsletters are appreciated by involved parents, especially as students tend to clam up as they matriculate into middle school.
  • Dont be wordy or condescending in your written communication with parents. For some parents, letters full of educationese reaffirm a sense of intimidation or distrust of schools that may have developed over years of negative personal experiences -- either as students or as parents.
  • Do utilize modern technology -- e-mail, voice mail, Web pages --wherever is available to help get your message out. With so many two-paycheck families, phone tag via answering machines can be a very inefficient method of communication. Delicate messages should not ever be placed on a familys answering machine when it is unclear who will listen to them first. Impress upon parents that e-mail is often the most direct communication route. For secondary teachers with 100 or more students, online communication is especially advantageous.
  • Do be sensitive to the characteristics of your community of parents. Depending upon the community, schools may have to think outside the box -- holding parent conferences away from school; making home visits; and hosting First Day programs to celebrate the beginning of a new school year -- to increase involvement among parents who might be uncomfortable making a personal appearance at school.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Parental Involvement Is as Easy as PIE!

Parental Involvement Is as Easy as PIE!

A special program in Phoenix, Arizona, makes parents true partners in their children's education. "Parent involvement will probably make more difference than anything else we could ever do to help our children learn," says Bonnie McReynolds, the teacher behind the program. Most schools live by a few simple tenets. Those basic principles usually include references to a strong curriculum, a caring atmosphere, and parental involvement. While most teachers work hard to develop and maintain solid programs in which kids come first, they're at a loss when it comes to figuring out where to begin when it comes to getting parents involved.
Not Bonnie McReynolds.
McReynolds has earned her Masters degree in parental involvement, figuratively speaking.
McReynolds' "PIE program" is an acronym for "Partners in Education," though it could stand for Parental Involvement in Education too. For that's what it is. Parents as partners.
"I've always felt that parental involvement was the answer to many of the problems facing teachers and students," says McReynolds, a fifth-grade teacher at Westwind Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona. "I'm talking about problems of academics and social problems, such as discipline or tardiness."
And McReynolds' program is a success. The statistics (academic and social) are just part of the proof. Parents are pleased with the results too. They feel more involved with their children's education and more connected with the school.
"The program has carried over to our home too," said one parent. "We worked together as a team. I've never had such a great relationship with my son."


In 1994, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley announced the formation of a nationwide partnership to "promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation." Riley based his statement on 30 years of research.
"Although I haven't been teaching that long," McReynolds says, "I always have known that the family was a critical link. Parental involvement must be a focus in the classroom if we are to be able to achieve high academic standards and create productive citizens."
And the research supports McReynolds' point of view:
A 1992 study (Barton and Corey) showed that controllable factors -- such as absenteeism and tardiness, the amount of TV watched, and the kinds of learning activities that are offered at home -- make a huge difference in the average student's achievements. Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science achievement (The College Board, 1994) and the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children (Anderson et al., 1985).
Dozens of studies point to one important conclusion: What the family does is more important than family background (income, parental education, marital status, family size, etc.). Parents need to know that they can influence learning. And, in most cases, they need to be shown how they can do it.
Studies show that schools must take the lead in actively pursuing parental involvement. Encouraging parents to participate in their children's education is more important than family background in determining whether or not parents get involved.
McReynolds' based her PIE program on the research (see Resources below) and on her years of experience in the classroom. "Eight basic and essential facts" comprise the core of the program:
  • Family involvement is a critical part of high quality education, a safe and disciplined learning environment, and student achievement.
  • What the family does is more important that what the family income or education level is.
  • All parents want the best education for their children.
  • Most parents want to be more involved in their child's education, but many don't know how to become involved.
  • Most teachers feel that parent involvement is a vital part of student achievement, but many of them do not know how to get the parents involved.
  • Schools need to encourage and promote parent involvement.
  • School practices that encourage parents to participate are the most important factor in whether or not parents will participate.
  • Schools need to encourage parents to become partners and thus be able to make decisions about their children's education.