Friday, September 25, 2015

Coming Soon! A Major Update to Mastery Club!

I'm super excited to announce that my popular Mastery Club program is being updated with a fresh new look and feel that you and your students are going to love!  

Mastery Club challenges ALL learners to learn something new.  It's student-directed and motivating for students and families love it.  It's EASY for the teacher to manage and runs in the background of your class all year.  Click here to read a previous blog post about the great program!  (But remember, the program is being updated as you read this!)

Be looking next week for the update and if you've purchased Mastery Club in the past, be sure to go to your TpT My Purchases" area and download the newly updated set!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Teach Character Education the Easy Way

In my 33+ years teaching middle grades and middle school math, I've learned a thing or two about how to focus on teaching and not spend time dealing with poor behaviors.  Yes! It can be done!  You have to devote time early in the year connecting and getting to know each and every student.  Take the time to teach students how to treat each other, how to treat you, and the classroom materials.  If you don't do this right, you will likely struggle all year managing poor behaviors and that is not good for students or you!  If you teach them what good character looks and sounds like, your students will show mutual respect for you and each other.  Sound good?  It can be done.
One thing I do is post the key vocabulary words that help me teach good character where it's in student's view.  I usually focus on 18-20 traits for my wall display.  Note:  I post the posters alphabetically so I can do some indirect teaching of alphabetizing, too.    This is a really old photo that shows my first rendition of character trait posters.  Here is another old photo.

My new set of character traits posters is 100% better!  The new set of character trait posters that I just posted today to TpT has 66 traits and 11 bulletin board titles. The set is in PowerPoint format so you can move the slides into the order you want and use it the way you want.  It's also in PDF format for easy printing.  Here's what a few of the posters look like.  Do you remember that my new products are 50% off for the first 24 hours?   :)
Some years our school chose to use a monthly character education focus.  No problem, I can do that but I'm also going to focus on it daily without directly teaching!   When students are showing good character, I point to the poster displayed on the wall and make simple comment about the trait.  Sometimes I'd say this quietly to the child and sometimes I'd say it out loud, depending on if it was something the class was working on.
I also run a Special Student of the Week program where each child gets to the be "Star" for the week.  My motivation is simple with this amazing program.   You can read more about in on this blog post.
#1:  That way I don't have to change a job chart every week!  I have the special person do EVERYTHING that needs doing all week long.  It's awesome!
#2:  On the last school day, the special person gets interviewed by classmates.  Then, classmates focus on character traits and write (at least) two compliment sentences.  Students scan the wall looking for words that describe the person and give examples of how the student shows that trait.
#3:  Everyone likes to be recognized and noticed as important.  The combination of focusing on great character and strengths of the student make it a win-win.

Another program I use and can't do without is the Wise Owl Student of the Month program.  I created this program to also focus on character traits.  The Wise Owl program was my dad's idea.  He's got great ideas!  (See his Scottish Heritage website here).  In Scotland as a young boy, my dad was recognized in school as the Wise Owl Student of the Month and it made a big difference for him. He bought a beautiful wooden owl hand carved in Mexico and brought it home and it became my first owl.  You can see a photo of the Wise Owl on my classroom website.   The wise owl award I gave out focused on 12 character traits.  This program changed behavior like no other I've used.  Students wanted to earn this award and worked so hard to have the recognition.   I'll do a more detailed blog post later on.
What do you do that helps build good character?  Leave a comment to share what works with other teachers.  Thank you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Empower Students to Take Charge of their Learning

Having students take charge of their learning is the goal of every teacher.  Encouraging students is important.  Everyone needs that encourager in his or her life.

Encourage students to set goals.  It only takes a moment to recognize students when they achieve their goals but it's important to do.  Ultimately, we want students to be intrinsically motivated. Young learners want to know that you notice them.  It means the world to students when you notice the and the hard work they've put forth.  It's the little things!  Just whisper kind and encouraging words for the effort being put forth.

Put students in charge of tracking their progress towards their learning.  Give them the tools and assist them with data tracking.  Use graph paper and a few colored pencils.  It's easy to see growth using two different colors graphed side by side.  If you have students keep their own data notebooks, these graphs are easy and ready to use.   Notice the pride when students figure out how much they've learned.  If students need to re-learn a concept, just graph the new score on top of the old bar graph column (see column 3.OA.D.8 PostTest score).  You can have students draw a horizontal line on the mastery level.

Learning is hard work!  Celebrate success and improvement with your students.

There's nothing better than to have students lead their own conferences.  It's powerful to hear students tell their family members what they're good at and what they need to get better at.  More on that another time.  :)
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