Looking for some lively discussion among passionate educators? Or professional development that applies to your personal goals? Or some inspiration for one of your current classroom challenges? Or even just to broaden your PLN? Then join in on one or all of these favorite Twitter Chats!
A Few Handy TwitterChat tips:
Introduce yourself when you join in.
Use the chat hashtag in every comment you make so others in the discussion can see it!
Download a platform like TweetDeck to more easily see all the incoming Tweets (they come fast during a lively discussion).
Questions are listed by the moderator as Q1, Q2, etc. Start your tweets with A1, A2, etc. to correspond with the question at hand, and try to stay on topic! If you get inspired to begin an offshoot discussion, you can always DM (direct message) an individual!
What: PYP stands for the Primary Years Programme for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, but you don’t have to be a PYP teacher to join in! We’re all about inquiry, passionate learning, and honest reflection.
“Rosa has lined up so respectfully for recess.” “Wow, Ethan is managing his time so well by checking the instructions.” “Check out how Candice has taken the time to carefully revise her piece before publishing.” Here are 13 reasons–one per grade–to make positive praise one of your most valuable teaching tools.
Kindergarten: Motivate students by attaching their names to something positive.
Don’t we all hope for a little validation for our hard work? School is a full-time job for students, too, and even your kindergarteners value recognition for their efforts. “I see Kate waiting her turn to get a drink at the fountain,” goes a long way for a five year-old working on patience.
1st Grade: Highlight those who make appropriate choices.
This is not to be confused with grooming a flock of “teacher’s pets,” especially since that usually involves recognizing a select few. Teachers should make it a priority to frequently catch all their first graders making good choices. “I notice David found a great place to read his book,” conveys to the rest of the class what you value.
Helpful starting tip: use a blank class list to actually tally your positive feedback. Not only will this help you develop awareness of how frequently you praise certain students, it will also help you notice how frequently you issue praise in general.
2nd Grade: Eradicate the common habit of focusing on those making inappropriate choices.
Since mischievous 2nd graders tend to stand out, this is much more difficult than it sounds. Next time you notice an off-task student, instead of going straight for direct reprimands, try praising a student within his or her proximity who is following instructions. “I appreciate how respectfully John is raising his hand to share his ideas” gives effective feedback both to John and to a classmate who has shouted out, while placing the positive attention on the student making better choices.
Note: We absolutely believe that constructive criticism has its place; however, we contend it should be a secondary strategy–not your primary one.
Perhaps you have set up some kind of extrinsic motivation system in your classroom, such as earning classroom “money” for positive behavior. Especially when used intermittently, this can be a valuable classroom tool. However, imagine a statement such as, “I’m impressed that Johnny didn’t even need to earn a bonus to push in his chair. He has become a responsible enough 3rd grader that he knows how to take care of our classroom without any extra reward.” There is clear potential there for shaping a student’s desire for self-development, rather than always depending on tangible rewards.
4th Grade: Reinforce your instructions.
It’s exhausting to repeat yourself to inattentive students. Instead, picture this scenario. As you discuss with your 4th graders the procedure for your latest science inquiry experiment, you jot each step on the whiteboard. Then, as soon as students begin, flood the transition with simple, out-loud observations of those double-checking those procedures, such as “I see Kalli quickly gathering her supplies as we discussed for step 1,” or “Paul is double-checking step 3 on the board before he proceeds.”
The point: Proper instructions get reinforced, you don’t feel like a nag, and students who follow instructions get some recognition. Win-win-win.
5th Grade: Reinforce your expectations.
As your fifth graders have generally become quite familiar with one another through their primary years, they often become quite social–which adds both liveliness and challenges to your classroom management approach. Proactively reinforcing the appropriate times and contexts for socializing may keep the school year running more smoothly. Some examples of this kind of feedback: “I see Marta respectfully listening to her group member, waiting to contribute her ideas until it’s her turn” or “Joseph wisely chose not to stand by his best buddies in line so he won’t be tempted to chat as we walk down the halls to lunch.”
6th Grade: Encourage specific growth.
Each year, my feedback tends to center around one idea or theme. Some have included:
You may solve your problems in ways that aren’t problematic for yourself or others.
These themes arose from the opportunities for growth I observed in each class collectively, and I voiced them every single day through my specific positive praise. “Nancy made Jim’s life easier by stacking his chair when she saw he was busy at the end of the day.” “Robert is saying no to distractions by putting away his pencil during instructions.” “Cindy solved her problem of losing her permission slip by making a new one for her parents to sign.” My fifth graders became so familiar with it that they started using similar language in their own conversations. Daily illustrating what it looked, felt, and sounded like through positive praise had a much more lasting impact than an individual lesson might have had.
7th Grade: Give reminders to off-task students without confrontation.
By 7th grade, most students “catch on,” often manifested by eye-rolling. A strategy that involves reminding students of appropriate behavior without direct confrontation may be the very tool you need that will preempt power struggles throughout the year.
8th Grade: Build rapport with students.
By 8th grade, overt teacher praise is often officially “uncool.” Depending on the student, you may actually push away certain students if they feel overly recognized. But as you gear your positive praise toward a more one-on-one level, it can still have a powerful role in building your relationships with students as they sense you respect them as mature young adults. For instance, you may pull aside a student for this kind of feedback: “I could tell you dedicated some thoughtful reflection in your essay; I have other students that don’t yet understand what that kind of serious reflecting looks like, so I was wondering if you’d mind my sharing it with the class? I can keep your name anonymous if you would prefer.”
9th Grade: Align your practices with research.
At Purdue University, the Department of Child Development and Family Studies discussed John Gottman’s positive to negative feedback ratio. According to his research, marriage relationships thrive when that ratio is balanced at 5:1.¹ This research is reinforced in the classroom by numerous additional studies which find that “the use of contingent, behavior-specific praise has been linked to positive student outcomes, including increased student academic engagement and decreased disruptive behavior.”² We simply must have a greater number of positive interactions with our students than negative.
10th Grade: Let the modeling of quality thinking and choices come from students’ peers.
21st Century learning and teaching is defined by a technology-facilitated shift: from teachers as sources of knowledge, to guides who coach students to assess and evaluate the knowledge now at all our fingertips. Embrace this shift by allowing student peers’ work to be the model wherever possible. Supporting the philosophy that quality ideas can come from anyone–instead of just one wisened individual–is both empowering and realistic in this modern age of collaboration. For example: “Check out how Lucas is approaching this algorithm. How can that strategy be helpful for some individuals?”
11th Grade: Encourage students to make better use of their resources.
Let’s say you put some dictionaries in your classroom (or the link to dictionary.com on your class blog homepage), hoping that will help eradicate spelling errors. Maybe you even give your students a mini-lesson on how to look up words in the dictionary for spelling aid. However, none of your best efforts will encourage students to utilize that resource as well as praising a student who does so.
12th Grade: Cultivate a growth mindset.
The way we praise students has a greater impact on their development than we may realize. A motivation researcher at Stanford, Carol Dweck, has addressed the terms, fixed mindset and growth mindset.³ Students who receive praise that focuses on innate ability (“You got 100%–you’re so smart at math!”) develop a fixed mindset–instilling perfectionism, fear of failure, and belief that ability is static. When the praise centers around effort (“You got 100%–you must have worked so hard!”), students develop a growth mindset–leading to courage, perseverance, and belief that ability is malleable. See an inspiring video on this subject by Khan Academy below.
School is back into full-swing for many schools by now. Amid back-to-school supplies, carefully-designed units, and seating charts, remember to maintain a vision of those things that are most important. Here are a few of our favorite reminders.
#1: Brene Brown’s Leadership Manifesto
(and while you’re at it, perhaps her “Engaged Feedback Checklist,” too. Both of these come from her latest book, Daring Greatly, which is definitely a worthwhile read for any educator!)
#2: Bill Ferriter’s essential technology reminder
#3: Ann Lander’s wisdom on child autonomy
#4: Dr. Haim Ginott’s realization on a teacher’s daily influence
#5: And this.
Or maybe just a poster that says, “Serenity now!” Have a great 2014-2015 year!
Featured Image: (only visible on mobile devices with current layout) Nick Amoscato
If you’re pausing your teaching career during parental leave for a few years, we have some ideas to help you keep up with the education world!
#1: Watch for license renewal credits opportunities
When the time comes for you to resume your teaching career, you don’t want to be stuck with retroactively tracking down hours and paperwork! Develop a professional learning plan now, combing your state or country requirements. Contact your prior administration for documentation of any accumulated credits during your employment.
#2: Volunteer at your last school
Strap on that Baby Bjorn or occasionally drop off kids with a babysitter to maintain educational ties in your community. Gauge what’s realistic for your circumstances, though, whether it’s simply to read with students now and then, or to facilitate an extracurricular activity, such as a TED-Ed Club
#3: Volunteer online
Sign up to tutor online! Become a Granny in Sugata Mitra’s “School in the Cloud.” You can even combine #2 & #3 via interactive platforms like Skype. For instance, when I was housebound during our school’s annual PYP Exhibition process, I volunteered to mentor a few student groups through weekly Skype “meetings” instead. The students loved sharing their progress on the webcam, and I loved being involved despite my situation.
Classroom 2.0 LIVE hosts free online shows. PLP Network offers purchased E-courses (with options for graduate credit, too). And once you’ve established #4, Twitter Chats can be especially helpful–for me, one solid chat usually ends with with about 37 new open tabs of resources.
Was packing your classroom materials a whirlwind of items flying into unlabeled boxes? Then you need to fire up your scanner and read our post on getting organized. ASAP. Your sanity will thank you later when you resume teaching.
#7: Organize your new resources
After getting inspired by the 37+ tabs of resources discovered during a Tweet Chat, make sure you can find them again! Establish a bookmarking system that works for you, be it a Delicious account, or several categorized folders to sort your bookmarks on your browser (Chrome is a great option since it saves your bookmarks across your devices if you’re logged into your Google account).
#8: Develop a Skill
Brush up your old high school Spanish using the free Duolingo app. Fine-tune your piano playing. Explore PhotoShop or Prezi. Anything that you enjoy will enhance your classroom, even if it’s not directly related to your content–after all, your future students need models of adults pursuing passions!
#9: Revamp Your Class Blog!
Browse your favorite class blogs, and then find ways to incorporate your favorite user-friendly features on your own blog!
#10: Re-evaluate your WHY as a Teacher!
Reflect on your previous practices and honestly assess what can be improved or tossed altogether. Consider how you can return to the educational work-force with an even deeper commitment to authentic learning (on that subject, be sure to check out our tips on becoming a 21st Century teacher)!
And of course, remember to make the most of this precious and swiftly passing time with your little one(s)!
“There’s something powerful and exciting about the society-wide experiment the digital age has thrust upon us.” ~James Estrin, National Geographic¹
Whatever shape our personal digital involvement takes, the above statement has become irrefutable. With an exponential quantity of global interaction on our hands, we can already identify many ways our lives have changed. However, time has yet to fully reveal the long term and unintended impacts of technology, known as “drip effects” (Peter Skillen gives the example of cars, where their original purpose was to simply transport people places; the unexpected drip effect became the phenomenon of city sprawl and suburban life²). To us, the most thrilling aspect of this “society wide experiment” lies in education.
Sudden Educational Evolution
For many years, education remained fairly static. Professors of education could share similar concepts and resources for decades, with little deviation. Sure, the pendulum would, at times, swing between such matters as phonics vs. whole language, but nothing altered too radically.
Now, all that is changing thanks to technology. It’s not just social media platforms that create customized professional development for teachers. It’s not just cloud storage like Google Drive that foster global collaboration. It’s not even just Youtube videos that provide instant tutorials for every topic under the sun. It’s a revolutionizing and unexpected drip-effect: the manner in which teachers are pioneering new practices. Since even those who graduated college 5 years ago were unlikely to have possessed a textbook on the benefits of Twitter in the classroom, teachers are tinkering and experimenting with new resources themselves–learning and growing right alongside their students!
The Counterintuitive Effects of Vulnerability
This kind of pioneering requires teachers to share their personal, authentic, and vulnerable learning processes–the out-loud wondering, the messy brainstorming, the trial and error, the failed projects–all are brought front and center in the classroom. What is the result when students watch adults experience genuine learning? In the “Pencil Metaphor” below (as shared in other posts), the erasers, ferrules, and hangers-on may fear that exposing their limitations could result in a loss of respect, productivity, or control. The the rest are discovering the true results: strengthened relationships as students see their teachers as more human; heightened motivation as students are inspired by what lifelong learning looks like; and abundant empowerment for everyone in an atmosphere where it is safe to experiment, fail, discover, and grow.
During the most recent #5thchat (held Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET), Tyson Lane summarized this approach well:
@mary_teaching@ICTmagic definitely. It’s very much like life; develop and share values rather than force and instruct to get better outcome
Such common sharing and learning is also reinforced by the findings of vulnerability and shame researcher, Brene Brown, when she describes the necessary shift in education and business alike, “from controlling to engaging with vulnerability–taking risks and cultivating trust”³ (p. 209. See her terrific manifesto for leaders here).
Walking the Talk
I was always surprised at how much one phrase delighted my students: “I don’t know.” Giggles and slightly dropped jaws would consistently ensue, followed by profound discussions on whether I should find out myself (while modeling to them), or whether they could help me figure it out. My most carefully crafted inquiry questions rarely elicited as much engagement from my students as those three words. Similarly, I once attempted to create a DIY interactive whiteboard with a Wii remote–a venture that ultimately proved completely ineffective. Though one might expect that students would respond to such failure with scorn, my students were keenly supportive through every step–and in turn, showed increased willingness to try and share new ideas themselves.
Through blogs, Twitter, and more, I have learned from exceptional individuals who are boldly learning with their students. Listed below are a few:
Jon Bergmann: Within a couple years of Youtube’s debut, Jon wondered what would happen if he gave his lessons in video format as homework instead of teaching them in class. The result has been the Flipped Class Movement.
Numerous other educators in my PLN who daily share their triumphs, trials, and resources on Twitter.
Trying new technology to improve your classroom is risky. But even if the intended goal fails, the drip effect of being vulnerable with your students and allowing them to watch you authentically learn is priceless.
The dialogue on “digital divides” is extensive with regards to student learning and accessibility. But what about digital divides for learning and accessibility among teachers?
No Teacher Left Behind?
When I graduated from college in 2009, I had never heard of concepts like PLN’s, teachers using Twitter professionally, or encouraging elementary students to create digital portfolios with blogs. When I began teaching at a fairly new school filled with other recently graduated teachers, our video projectors were as high-tech as it got–though most classrooms still had overhead projectors, too. And when I finally began to explore 21st century educational technology years later (social media in particular), I discovered a rather counterintuitive pattern: despite being raised with the internet, younger teachers as a whole are not the fluent edtech masters one might expect.
Putting the Pieces Together
The more I started to catch up on edtech, the more aware I became of this pattern. For example, as the Flipped Learning Network has gathered statistics on flipped classrooms, it has shared findings using various Infographics. The one below states that 85% of teachers flipping their classrooms have at least 7 years of experience; another shows that for 46% of teachers polled, that number jumps up to 16 years!
“…the majority of Gen Y teachers grew up using the Internet and technology. Given this simple fact, it would seem to be only a matter of time before a cohort of tech-savvy, actively tweeting, social media-integrating teachers take over our schools. The reality, however, is more complicated…being born at this time did not necessarily mean being born into a world of social media…nor did it necessarily mean being educated in a technology-rich learning environment.”
With regards to teacher education, it further states:
“Surprisingly, given that the vast majority of those entering the profession are digital natives, new teachers are no more likely to integrate technology into their practice than their veteran peers. The research indicates that it is not a lack of access, but primarily lack of knowledge and practice integrating the technology into their instructional pedagogy.”
To an extent, the shortcomings of collegiate teacher prep makes sense. As a recent Huffington Post article points out, college in 2005 was dramatically different from today (ie, neither MacBook Pros nor Twitter existed yet, and Facebook was still limited to college freshmen). Even the professors were unfamiliar with rapidly evolving educational technology tools and practices.
Meanwhile, teachers whose careers were already established when such tools debuted became the prime candidates for becoming the digital literates in the field. Thus, I would contend that older teachers are even more likely than younger ones to integrate technology in their teaching practices and professional development.
Closing the Gap
So how do we close the gap of teachers who do and don’t effectively integrate technology? The above-mentioned NASBE report cites policy and institution-based solutions such as improving technology instruction at the university level, as well as implementing quality, ongoing professional development and peer mentoring. While these are sure to help address the issue, we suggest it can also be remedied when teachers take individual action. With the wealth of free professional development available online (ie, communities of teachers on Twitter that share, discuss, and support), teachers can be quickly brought up to speed on the latest ideas. Our post on ways to become a 21st century teacher has specific ideas for such action. Let us endeavor to close any digital divide that arises to strengthen our global community of teachers and learners!