Saturday, August 30, 2014

Motivation Matters

Enjoy a Laugh
“Motivation is fickle; it’s not as simple as making a connection
with students at the outset of the lesson. We have to maintain their interest.”
                          ~ Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey

Click on 31 Signs You Have Been a Teacher Too Long from the International Reading Association. I know you can use this information in some way! It might take a minute to loadworth it!

Besides the above humorous link, I  recommend the latest issue of Educational Leadership. September's issue is titled MOTIVATION MATTERS, and is literally filled with note-worthy articles. Find someone who has a copy and borrow.


My FOUR favorites: (so far)

Four (Secret Keys to Student Engagement)
by Robyn Jackson and Allison Zmuda.   FOUR STAR

             Dimensions (or Keys)

                 Students Ask

        Teachers Ask


What’s my goal?

What do I want students to


What’s in it for me?

Why do they need this?


What have I learned from this classroom to help me persevere?

How can I support students?


What's is my game plan and my on-going strategies?

How can I balance challenge and support?

Close Reading without Tears by Nancy Boyles  FOUR STAR
Text sets are the perfect match for how texts work and critical thinking. Excellent questions for Standards 1-9 provided.

Reading Time with Goals in Mind by Jennifer Serravallo  FOUR STAR
Students set goals to make independent reading time more purposeful. Teacher and student work together to set goals.

Designing Relevant Learning by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey FOUR STAR Go beyond “because you need to know this next year."

         For the past few weeks I have been working on a Close Reading project. Can't seem to finish, but it's looking good. Will share real soon. 

Before beginning Season 2, I vowed I would only post when I had something to give you to make your job easier, or something I felt you couldn't live without. Most likely, I will not blog EVERY Saturday since that is a pretty tall order! I do appreciate you checking in on me. Have a wonderful 3-day holiday, and a very Happy Saturday.

WPS! Go Hogs!

Saturday, August 16, 2014



From Building Grit, Passion Perseverance, and Purpose

There is only one first day of school each year. Think about it from the kids’ perspective. They don’t have many first days during their entire school career. It's a grand moment, with many cultural rituals attached. Don't you think the night before school starts is like New Year’s Eve for kids? (They can celebrate by going to bed early!)

My advice this week: Inspire the heck out of your students DAY ONE. Let them know you will be taking them on such an incredible journey that even Ms. Frizzle would give you a thumbs up.

     Inspiring kids is our most important task the first day of schoolother than guaranteeing their personal safety and their safe return home. Sure there are rules, procedures, goal-setting, team building activities, books to be handed out, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Don’t we want our students to be thinking “This is my best teacher EV-VER” and saying “I will do great things this year?” We want them to feel an overwhelming sense of empowerment. (Secretly, we know they are going to need it for what we have planned.)

Of course, the down side to our students being on fire and feeling like they can conquer the world is maintaining and sustaining this motivational tidal wave. We have to live up to our kids’ expectations for the next 180-200 daysdepending on school calendar. Is that so hard? Oh YEAHthinking Mount Everest!!!

Three Easy Ideas

For today, I have three inspirational First Day ideas (or the 2nd, 6th, or 22nd day). The first idea is just for YOU. I am most certain you have no time for enjoying teacher movies. I grabbed one tiny (under 3 min) clip of my all-time favorite inspirational scene from Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams pleads with his students, “Make your lives extraordinary.” (Sigh! So incredibly sad) In Robin's spirit, INSPIRE.

      Has everyone heard the starfish story? No matter how many times I hear the story it always resonates. When I began teaching adults, I always tucked it in somewhereas a gift, as an intimate moment to share between myself and the audiencean homage to teaching. It seemed natural to use it with kids, as well.

Early on, I began telling this story versus reading and realized the powerful effect it had.
The story structure and vocabulary were simple, the punchline dramatic, easy to ad lib, to pause dramatically, to tease the audience by slowly unveiling the old man’s response, and extremely adaptable to suit your purpose. Try it. 

Michael Jordan’s story would make for great, first day inspiration. Consider pairing a video clip with a brief bio and turn Michael into a permanent member of your classroom. When the kids are in need of a "rally the troops" pep talk, refer back to Michael's grit and ability to turn setbacks into opportunities. Asking "What do you think Michael would do in this situation?" is such an effective reminder to kids to give MORE THAN 100%.

From Building Grit, Passion Perseverance, and Purpose
I have more ideas, of course. They will just have to wait 'til next week. 

How do you let your students know this year is going to be special? It would be awesome if you shared in the comments section below.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate and respect your time and hope you found something you can use. For more inspirational ideas consider my teacher's guide Building Grit, Passion, and PerseveranceWishing you a powerful beginning of school and a very Happy Saturday. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

       Teaching Urgency
         Three Ways that WORK

Used through Creative Commons

The summer I turned 16, I landed my first job as a motel maid. Midway through the season, the owner popped into the room I was cleaning and told me he was going to have to let me go because I was too slow. I was devastated (and incredibly embarrassed)!!! Fortunately, I was able to talk him into giving me a second chance. Here’s the deal: I wasn't purposely trying to avoid work. I was simply day dreaming and got lost in time. Well, I learned a BIG life lesson that day.J

Getting the Year Going
More than anything else, establishing routines and procedures for managing independent learning is a must do for teachers. According to experts, it is imperative we do two things during the first two weeks:
·       Help students think about themselves as learners
·       Establish the context so our students will thrive

Lastweek, I provided a descending table of learning time and also strongly suggested that before student goal setting take place make sure the kids understand what they have control over. For today, my question is: 

How can we get students to sustain a sense of urgency? Is it even possible? 

In most cases, we can get students to work with a sense of urgency for a day, an hour, and/or an activity. Our goal for our soon-to-be students is for them to be good managers of time and self-starters. A genuine sense of urgency is a highly positive and powerful force. (Kotter, 2012). This behavior is part of growth mindset and can be taught

Maintaining a Sense of Urgency

Here are THREE power-packed ways to make this happen:

Build solid relationships- kids won’t take us seriously if we don’t walk the talk. Share your own struggles with time. Don’t forget to share some of the strategies that have/ have NOT worked for you. DID YOU KNOW our brain remembers only the good and bad experiences that occur each day. Apparently, neutral experiences don’t make it into the memory bank. Make sure you have more positive than negative interactions with your students.
Provide Meaningful and Intentional Feedback-Do not praise the obvious. Praise learning attempts and students' struggle. Use phrases like “I can see you are working hard.”  Praise specifically what you want to see repeated and spell it out for kids so they have a clear understanding. Make sure they know what they did that eventually brought them success or to that particular point (think process). We want to be teaching on a strategic level, i.e., by remembering what I did with this problem, it will will help me go through the same steps with a similar one.
Set and Use Time Limits-If students have a set time to complete a task they stand a better chance of getting it done. If Ernie had told me up front, “You need to spend 30 minutes in each room” I would not have had an opening anecdote!J
You probably already use at least one of these timers. Just in case, I've included three super cool suggestions that will help motivate and encourage students.
iPad Countdown timers are a must in every classroom

As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate your time and I hope you found something you can use.  Wishing you a very Happy Saturday.    

Saturday, August 2, 2014


The Answer is 12,960 Hours
What is the Question?

Leveraging time has got to rank in the top three high-yield strategiesregardless of context. I remember watching a demonstration of a life clock on Oprah. On the grim reaper side it was a bit creepy to see how many remaining minutes of your life statistically are left. I suppose the non-techie version would be the Medicaid tables :)  Seriously, we all know how fast time slips away, but unfortunately our students don’t (get how time slips by).

So here’s my question I would like to explore: What can teachers do to teach students to value their time and to build a sense of urgency within the students? 

       No pun intended, but this is going to take some time to figure outsince getting kids to value time and having (any kind of) a sense of urgency is the BIG goal of all teachers. We want students to use their time wisely in class. We’re not so much talking behavior management as much as having them authentically develop and hone a life skill. Why? To make their lives better.

FIRST, let's start by answering how much classroom learning time students have--give or take. The table came from my book, Unharnessing Student Power: Building Grit. The estimate of 6 hours was just that--an estimate.

How Much Time Do Our Students Really Have?
                               Days in one school year = 180 days

                              Hours in classroom for one school day = 6 hrs*

Hours in classroom for one school year = 1080 hrs

   TOTAL HOURS spent in classroom = 12,960 hrs**

                                                 I took off an hour for lunch and breaks
**Not counting preschool, kindergarten, lunch, or absences

At the end of year total
hours spent

 Total learning time
 left at the end of year
First Grade
     1,080 hours
11,880 hours
Second Grade
     2,160 hours
10,800 hours
Third Grade
     3,240 hours
9,720 hours
Fourth Grade
     4,320 hours
8,640 hours
Fifth Grade
     5,400 hours
7,560 hours
Sixth Grade
     6,480 hours
6,480 hours
Seventh Grade
     7,560 hours
7,560 hours
Eighth Grade
     8,640 hours
4,320 hours
Ninth Grade
     9,720 hours
3,240 hours
Tenth Grade
   10,800 hours
2,160 hours
Eleventh Grade
   11,880 hours
1,080 hours
Twelfth  Grade
   12,960 hours

      The funny thing about data is that it allows us a different perspective. When I was being ornery back in 8th and 9th grade, I could have used this reality check. Letting the students know how much time they have (or not) seems like a good place to start. For most grade levels all or parts of this table could be calculated by students. Hmmm... the questions are pretty straightforward.

How many hours have you been in school so far?
How many hours of classroom time before you            

As follow up to this particular lesson, students write and              answer:

What did you gain from your 1,080 hours last year?
What do you expect gain from your 1,080 hours this           year?

Once students see how quickly their opportunities diminish, in terms of school learning time, they need to realize that HOW they use their classroom time is completely within their area of control. Consider the following as a follow up activity: 

       What are the things in life you can, you partially can,         and you cannot control? 

This can be easily done by students using a double circle map, a tree-map, or a Venn. Answering these questions would make for a rich collaborative activity based on the discussion and debate generated.  In addition, the activity naturally segues into a mini unit on goal setting.

I would like to add one more thing which I think is the most critical part of today's post. We must be REAL with our kids in these types of lessons. By that I mean, we need to disclose our own failed attempts and struggles with managing our time. Isn't this one of our life-long battles?  

       I could go on, but instead, watch for many more ideas on building a sense of urgency with our students in the weeks to come. Finally, I would love to know How you create a sense of urgency in your classroom? Please share in the comment section below.

As always, I want to thank you for stopping by. I really appreciate your time. I know many of you are gearing up. Beginnings are always so exciting. Wishing you a
 Happy Saturday.