Why We Need Montessori

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How do children best learn? It’s a question we often ask and continue to research. Montessori education focuses on many of the answers.

Most teachers agree about the effectiveness of kinesthetic learning. Children learn by doing. Whether exploring with their senses or practicing life skills, children in Montessori schools actively learn.

Montessori classrooms encourage cooperative learning with peers. Students benefit from discussions, reciprocal teaching, and working together. Student engagement often increases with the opportunity to work with peers.

Students take charge of their own learning when they are given choice. The freedom to choose where they want to sit, which activity to do, and which topic to explore leads to motivated learners. Teachers might be surprised by how well the students are able to self-assess and master concepts.

But does the Montessori model work for everyone? Does it have the same results regardless of socio-economic status? Researchers believe Montessori education can potentially close the achievement gap! The challenge, however, lies in the availability and accessibility of Montessori schools in low-income areas.

Interested in learning more? Take a Cognitive Engagement course with College Credit Connection and customize it explore all things Montessori. Receive graduate units for reading a book such as Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius and viewing experts like Judi Bauerlein.

What has been your experience with Montessori? Leave a comment below!

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Tattle tamers

Confession time: I did my second half of student teaching in kindergarten and found myself physically exhausted every single day.   My first assignment had been in 7th grade with students who could work independently and actively participate in critical (and often humorous!) discussions.  In the kindergarten classroom, I found myself working with little ones who desperately needed me every moment of the day to tie their shoes, help them cut out shapes, and listen to them tattle about everything they just witnessed during recess.  I quickly learned that my ideal classroom was not in the primary grades.  And so, it is with great respect and admiration for primary elementary teachers that I write this post!

If you feel like tattling has disrupted one too many lessons this year, you are not alone!  Consider trying these tips for taming the tattling:

Classroom Discussion

A post by Responsive Classroom, suggests writing down on index cards a few of the typical common incidents that have been reported to you.  Then, as a class, discuss if the proper response to each situation should be “Tell An Adult,” “Handle It Yourself,” or “Let it Go.”  You can make a chart and keep it posted in your classroom to remind students of the proper response.  You can also add to it or change the response throughout the year. Discuss the chart with parents and talk about your approach at parent meetings, in your weekly newsletter, and on your school or class website.

Be careful with student responsibilities

A well-organized classroom often includes student jobs and putting students in charge of certain responsibilities.  However, if you want to limit tattling, Dr. Ken Shore warns not to put students in charge of their classmates.  When a student is in authority over another student, it often will lead to a student telling you that someone is not following directions or being difficult.  To avoid this conflict, do not put students in charge of their classmates.

Deal with each student individually

Some students are looking for validation or attention.  Others might be being bullied.  Still others might not understand socially acceptable behaviors.  Help your students grow.   One teacher found it was necessary to have a student repeat the following: “It is not your job to enforce the playground rules. All you have to do is follow the rules. The playground supervisors can handle the rest of the kids in the way they see fit.”

Stop using the term “tattling”

Specifically, when we discourage “tattling” with our students, we might unintentionally send the wrong message.  After all, we do want students to report harmful behavior!  Students need to know that we are listening and take their concerns seriously.  Valerie Reiss encourages teachers to keep the lines of communication open and to remember that students will tattle less as they grow older and develop social skills.

Use it as a teachable moment

Help the student control their tattletale behavior by asking them questions such as:

Are you ok?

Did you ask the person to stop?

What are you hoping will happen?

What can I do to help the situation?

You can also have the students role-play with a caveat: Have them reenact the scenario with what every member involved should have done.  Have them practice the right thing to do in the situation.

Learn more

If tattling is taking over your classroom, consider enrolling in a professional development course that addresses classroom management

Do you have any tips for taming the tattling?  Leave some advice for another teacher or parent in the comments below!

To Assign or Not to Assign… Homework

Teaching middle school math and science in the inner city of Los Angeles, I wrestled with my previously formed opinion of assigning homework.  Was it fair to assign homework to adolescents who went home after school to take care of their younger siblings while their parents were both at work?  How many problems needed to be completed for sufficient practice?  Could the students master concepts and skills without the homework?  If I gave homework students, I wanted to give the appropriate amount and quality of homework to reap the benefits without causing stress, fatigue, boredom, or frustration.

I thought back to my days as a student, when classmates would “slack off” yet would ace the test.  They proved their learning on the summative assessments without completing the homework.  Would their grade in their class reflect their knowledge and skills or would it reflect the fact that they didn’t complete their daily assignments?  Some schools have completely abolished homework!

I considered what my personal desire was for my students when I assigned homework.  Was my motive drill and kill or did I want to deepen my students’ understanding?  Did everyone need to complete the same thing or could I give my students choice based on their learning level, interests, or learning style?  If you are looking for ways to engage your students, consider trying one of these 20 creative homework ideas.

Finally, many teachers know all to well how the piles of homework needed to be graded grow exponentially!  What type of feedback would best help the student?  Did I need to input it into the grade book or could the students be accountable in another way?  Taking all of these things into consideration, I decided to greatly reduce the amount of homework I assigned.  Homework no longer had a sufficient weight on the students’ academic grades, but was considered when assigning grades for things such as effort.  Whenever possible, I would offer student choice. 

What is your homework policy?  Has it changed over the years?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Terrific Teacher YouTube Channels

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When I wanted to introduce my students to different colleges and universities, I often turned to the treasure trove of YouTube to expose my students to campuses without the hassle of permission slips, transportation, and coordinating field trips! When I needed to show students examples of symbiotic relationships, I went to YouTube. When I….well, you get the picture. Even so, I barely scratched the surface of the vast resources available to teachers. Here are some of the YouTube channels you might find helpful as a teacher:

Edutopia

Stay on top of current topics in education by watching short clips by Edutopia! Most of the videos are between 2 to 4 minutes and cover topics such as mindfulness, Socratic circles, parent workshops, and creating student norms in the classroom. Find out what is working in K-12 education today!

Buck Institute of Education

If you want to learn more about Project Based Learning, check out the Buck Institute of Education for helpful videos! The content includes successful ideas to implement and suggestions to help align projects to standards, design and plan projects, and to engage students in learning. If you are interested in receiving graduate units for learning and implementing Project Based Learning in your classroom, you can enroll in EDUX 7635: PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: AN OVERVIEW.

Bozeman Science

Make your science lesson come alive with a clip from Bozeman Science! These videos include easy-to-understand diagrams, demonstrations, and models. Created by a high school teacher, the content covers everything from renewable energy to neurons!

Richard Byrne

Improve your lessons with a little help from Richard Byrne! Get tips and tricks in technology to engage your students. Imagine what you can learn and do with his tutorials!

TED-Ed

The TED-Ed YouTube channel topped the list of many educators (if you’re not already one of the 8.4 million subscribers, you will probably become one after checking out their videos!). Many of the 4 or 5 minute videos grab the attention of students and engage them in history, culture, science, math, literature, geography, and more! These high-quality videos will greatly enrich any classroom.

Here are some links of additional lists of top educational YouTube channels:

Great YouTube Channels for Teachers

Top 100 Teacher Youtube Channels on Educational Videos, Tutorials, Lessons & Courses

8 Excellent Educational YouTube Channels for Today’s Teachers

10 inspiring YouTube channels for teachers

If you are interested in receiving graduate units for professional development in technology, click here.

Which YouTube channels do you enjoy incorporating into your lessons? How and when do you use the videos? Leave a comment below!

Saving Money as an Educator

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Teachers give generously of their time, and more than often, their money. With school budget cuts and limited funds, teachers have to find ways to save money and be resourceful.   Here are some great ways to get the most bang for your buck and provide your students with an optimal learning environment.

 

Books

Looking to expand your classroom library? Thrift stores, garage sales, public library bookstores (Friends of the Library) and used books stores are treasure troves of good deals to help develop a love of literacy in your students.

 

Science Labs

Need to purchase equipment for science labs and experiments? An article on TeachHub gives you tips on where to shop, how to minimize and simplify your supply list, and who to ask for donations! Flex your creative muscle as you find ways to pinch the pennies and stock your classroom.

 

Furniture and Supplies

Before you go buy furniture, craft supplies, or anything else for your classroom check Freecycle, Craigslist or Ebay! Or ask your friends and family if they have the item(s) and are willing to donate to your classroom.

 

Graduate Units

Are you in need of more graduate units to move over your district’s pay scale? Making more money every year sounds good, doesn’t it? If you want to save money for your professional development, check out the affordable courses at College Credit Connection! Read the testimonials of teachers like yourself who have found the courses to be a great value and beneficial to their classrooms.

 

More ideas

These lists of the 20 Best Money-Saving Tips for Teachers and Teaching Strategies: How to Save Money have great ideas ranging from applying for grants to getting teacher discounts! They include links and great resources for the frugal educator.

 

Do you have a great money-saving idea to share? Are you inspired by one of these ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to School!

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Back-to-School Stress

Parents, children, and teachers tend to feel a lot of emotions and stressors when summer is coming to an end, and school is about to begin.

Parents are likely thinking about adjusting their schedules; students are likely thinking about seeing their friends AND having their summer freedom aborted; but teachers are likely stressing the most about getting ready for a new school year.

Psychologist Gail Kinman offers advice on how to reduce stress and prepare for the new school year.   Among other suggestions, she advises becoming in touch with your feelings, listening to your body, doing a bit of planning, and getting extra rest.

Researching advice from psychologists and teachers, five top tips emerged for relieving “back-to-school” stress. They are as follows:

  1. Practice self-care. Get in the habit of taking care of yourself so that when the onslaught happens, you are already in the habit of taking some time for yourself. Remember the flight attendants’ instructions: “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting the person next to you.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to take care of anyone else, particularly a room full of students!
  2. Meditate and/or pray. There are multitudes of studies showing that meditation and prayer lower According to a University of Pennsylvania research study, just 30 minutes of daily meditation improves the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, re-focus attention and stay alert to the environment. Even 5 minutes helps. Close your eyes for 5 minutes and breathe deeply to get back on track.
  3. Be prepared. Just a little bit of preparation can reduce your stress before it even starts to build up. Spend a little time organizing yourself before school starts and you will likely feel more relaxed. Make a list of what you want to do, then prioritize the items on your list. Don’t try to do everything at once. Feel free to cross off a few things on your list. Accomplishing the top few items can relieve a lot of anxiety.
  4. Use your mind. Take a few minutes to visualize yourself making a positive impact on your students. It is amazing how much this little practice can change your mindset and reduce stress.
  5. Get moving! Studies show that exercise reduces stress and releases endorphins. When you think you are too busy to exercise, it is often the times you need it most. It doesn’t have to be a full workout – just a quick walk or some stretches will do the trick. Yoga is also highly recommended.

(Reduce Back-to-School Anxiety Naturally)

Additional links are as follows: Back to School Tips, Back to School Preparation.

Summer and school breaks are great times to work on professional development classes. Flexible, online classes can be helpful for busy teachers.

So, take some deep breaths, and welcome the start of the school year!

If you have some good tips for reducing back-to-school anxiety, please comment below.