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From Brooklyn to Jakarta: Teaching Teachers Well

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Blogger Karali Pitzele explains how using discussion protocols and classroom strategies during professional development can help propel teacher learning.
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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

Your singing our song here! This is what we've been doing in the Critical Skills Program for almost 30 years. It's amazing what a difference it makes when PD walks its talk.

Thanks for sharing this!

kizijogo's picture

I must say that these teachers are actually teaching a very special and they know how to educational, behavioral and normative behavior. I love the way their education.

Aep Suryana's picture

PD is actualyy required regularly for indvidual teacher. I am a teacher in Sulawesi island in east part of Indonesia would be happy to have an article of teacher's PD. If you don't mind I also want to have your view on teacher performance apparaisal.

Thank you very much for invaluable article.
Aep Suryana

Pat Werner's picture

Thanks for taking the time to share all these details! As you say, showing, not telling, is the most effective way to teach something. Having the teachers "live" through the very process they can use with their students makes it so much more likely that they'll actually use that process in the classroom. It builds "muscle memory." Great article! Thank you!

Amy's picture
Amy
Kindergarten Teacher from Chicago, IL

Karali,
I love your article on professional development. You said some wonderful points that I 100% agree with. It is impossible to tell a teacher what to do. You have to show that teacher what to do, and then you can expect change. Just like teaching our students, it is so important to model what you want to see from them. It is a great opportunity to build a professional learning community. A PLC should be sustained and continuous to build great practices. Thanks for this great post!
Amy

Cheyanne's picture

Thank you for taking the time to share this great article! I agree that it is essential to model what is expected of your teachers because they are growing and learning as well. Just as the state standards change; technology changes. They implement new strategies for us to teach, but often leave it up to us to learn it for ourselves. If we taught our students how we are expected to change, we would have a huge failure rate. Professional development is vital to have, but it is only effective if it is modeled, reviewed and practiced.

Cori's picture
Cori
Kindergarten Teacher

Thank you for sharing your article. Recently our district received Adaptive Schools training. It was one of the first times at a professional development that I got up, moved around and was engaged. We practiced what was presented and implemented what we learned once we returned to our schools. I remember a lot and most of all enjoyed interacting with fellow educators instead of having a power point presentation read to me.

Karali Pitzele's picture
Karali Pitzele
Transformative Schools Educational Design

Thank you for your comment Aep,
I think having clear criteria for evaluation can be helpful, such as the Charlotte Danielson's Framework, and exemplars (ie. videos) to illustrate for teachers what the criteria look like in action really help. However, I will also say that being evaluated was not what helped or motivated me to grow as a teacher.
What helped me to grow was working with competent colleagues in a collaborative setting, being given good resources, and individual coaching.
The other thing that I will say about teacher evaluation is that one or two classroom observations per year is not adequate for supporting teacher growth, but most administrators are genuinely too overwhelmed to do more. When I was a principal, I tried to be in and out of classrooms as often as possible, even for 3-5 minute visits, so that when I did observe teachers formally, I had context, and so that I could support them on an ongoing basis.
Principals in New York City are expected to be instructional leaders, so I had to really develop my coaching and PD skills, while also managing the school. I was lucky to have a lot of training and support along the way.
Just like teachers, without good training and coaching it is difficult for school leaders to implement best-practices in teacher observation.
I would love to hear about the school you work in Sulawesi, would you tell me about it?

[quote]PD is actualyy required regularly for indvidual teacher. I am a teacher in Sulawesi island in east part of Indonesia would be happy to have an article of teacher's PD. If you don't mind I also want to have your view on teacher performance apparaisal.

Thank you very much for invaluable article.

Aep Suryana[/quote]

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How Teachers Can Share Their Own Learning

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Edutopia blogger Bob Lenz outlines the teacher defense -- an innovative approach to educators publicly sharing their learning from professional development.
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Neil's picture
Neil
Competition Cell is an coaching institute in Chandigarh preparing for Bank

Nice blog. I am really impressed with the sharing you have posted here.

Andrew Lynch's picture

I am often frustrated at the wasted potential of PDs. I recently received negative feedback on an informal observation regarding adherence to the new instructional model our school is using. Today, I attended two PDs that were supposed to be about the new model, unfortunately neither addressed this issue. Both PDs were derailed and went off-topic.

BAPAN's model could easily be used to resolve wasted PD time. By using an aligned assessment system, PDs would have a clear objective that must be addressed. Teachers could present evidence of what works and others could learn from their success.

Stan's picture
Stan
8th Grade World Geography

I enjoyed reading your post. I believe that professional development training's need to have a little more accountability for what the teachers are learning. After all, school districts are typically paying teachers for participating in these sessions so you would assume those school district officials would like to see results from student scores.

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Common Core in Action: Reviving the Civic Mission of Schools

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Edutopia blogger Anne O'Brien outlines how the Common Core State Standards can help promote the civic goals of schools.
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A Call to All Social-Emotional Learning Leaders

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Edutopia blogger Maurice Elias asks SEL and character education leaders to work together to create a set of guidelines and to also decide on a common language and terminology.
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Kevin Crosby's picture
Kevin Crosby
Educator and School Counselor / Trinidad School District #1

CASEL's framework: http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies

I agree with Renee and would add that it is important to distinguish standards, core competencies, and programming.

Different populations have different needs, and though competencies or standards can be defined, there must be flexibility in programming.

This is true for common core academic standards, as well.

My main point is that far too many schools pay lipservice to SEL, but have no programming, or at least no comprehensive and effective programming.

It needs to be a priority before effective programming becomes a reality.

Renee Jain's picture
Renee Jain
Founder of GoZen.com - Anxiety Relief Programs for Children

I like the premise of a common language, common principles, common goals, and unified branding in some part. I like the idea of voices coming together to create strength and coherence in our messaging. CASEL has created a great platform for this type of effort.

That said, we are still in the early stages of gauging the efficacy of programs, efforts, and ideas. Before converging (in a sense), I think it's important to make sure we avoid "groupthink" mentality which could crush some of the innovation the current diversity of programming produces.

Common core standards were developed after decades of teaching various subjects in various ways. We don't have that kind of experience under our belts in the SEL space as of yet. I think many of SEL leaders are changemakers and visionaries--let's not cut these visions short by creating too many standards too early. Let's see what works... let's build off of the ideas of one another, let's come together, yet still let our individual resourcefulness and creativity produce great programs for kids.

I guess I'm suggesting moderation in this idea at this point.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

We've been doing SEL work for nearly 30 years at Antioch and one thing we've learned is that we can't be too in love with any specific language. We try to help schools understand the underlying ideas and then we turn them loose to adapt and change our model so that it works for their individual contexts over time. I can't help but think that this is one of the reasons why we're still around and why teachers still say that Critical Skills is the most powerful training- not SEL training, assessment training, instructional training, etc.- they've ever had- whether they were trained 27 years ago or last summer.

So I guess I wonder if it's possible to come to agreement on something like this without boxing out our capacities to be nimble and responsive to changing cultural needs?

Maurice Elias's picture
Maurice Elias
Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

Thought provoking comments! I think we have to look at the end game and consider when we might feel that we would be able to better solidify the SEL/CE/etc. field. My sense is that we will not get to the point of widespread acceptance without some systematic attempt at convergence, or at least consensual communication. I do agree that we do not want to be limiting. But in some ways, it's like other debates in the public domain now. If there is no standard for what can and cannot be under the banner of SEL/CE/Etc.. then we put all of our work at greater risk than we do by doing what I am suggesting. Again, one approach is to have a series of agreements about how many elements of SEL/CE/etc . different works embody and then individuals can align themselves as they choose. I do trust that those who come together to attempt to resolve the issue will do so in good faith to the most important constituency- children.

Liz Warner's picture
Liz Warner
United Way of Northern New Jersey /New Jersey Culture & Climate Coalition

In New Jersey we have formed a coalition of organizations (NJ Culture and Climate Coalition) from throughout the state who are working with schools to address SEL / SECD and culture and climate - the impetus for forming the group came directly from the schools. While out working in schools throughout New Jersey on SECD/SEL and culture and climate we heard over and over again how bombarded and confused the schools are by the inundation of assemblies, workshops, programs and resources available to them to address culture and climate - all using different terminology and a plethora of different acronyms. In the hopes of not 'jumbling up' their school house any further -- and in fact, in even greater hopes of helping them 'un-jumble' it -- the NJ CCC was formed a little over a year ago. We are a very well-represented, robust group and feel the biggest potential 'win' (in addition to not confusing the schools) is the advocacy impact we could have with a cohesive, consistent message regarding the importance of culture and climate - what it is, why it is important, what does it look like. We have made considerable progress and have recently approved a a single definition of culture and climate as well as guidelines for schools including suggested actions on what a healthy school culture and climate should look like. It is great seeing us all working together around a win-win -- we really believe our unified voice will be stronger and will have much greater impact in the long-run.

Mike Sissel's picture
Mike Sissel
Passionate change agent

Thanks for your insightful blog Maurice. I've enjoyed reading each of the comments in the thread.

My biggest frustration is the outside-in nature that exists within many of the current character education programs. In my experience as a classroom teacher, our school would publicly celebrate all of the wonderful things we were doing to address character in the classroom, yet the teachers were simply inundating kids with buzz words like respect, responsibility, and trust.

My aim is to address the "core" of the child through an inside-out process, thus allowing them to own the various principles, much like you would own a tool.

I invite you to read one of my recent blogs about the critical importance of the "emotional backpack".

http://kaleidoeye.com/backpack/

Thank you all for your commitment and passion.

Regards,
Mike

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

Mike, I totally agree. That's why we designed the Critical Skills Program to be simultaneous to content, not a separate thing. We, like you, believe that SEL has to happen alongside academic learning so that it becomes part of how kids learn to function in the world. (It's funny- we also use the backpack language, but we talk about Critical Skills being a "big backpack" for all the stuff teachers are supposed to be doing like SEL, differentiation, inclusion, formative assessment, etc).

Mike Sissel's picture
Mike Sissel
Passionate change agent

Hi Laura. Thanks for your comment. Where can I learn more about your Critical Skills Program?

Regards,
Mike

Patrick Abraham's picture

It is still amazing that there continues to be a lack of funding at the federal and state level for funding for SEL when we know through research that has been replicated over and over and real-life practice in schools- when teachers are given explicit opportunities to connect and develop relationships with their students in a grassroots and systematic way- the academic achievement and social-emotional status both show significant gains. Kudos to all our SEL leaders out there continuing to advocate for this in our schools.

(1)
Patrick Abraham's picture

It is still amazing that there continues to be a lack of funding at the federal and state level for funding for SEL when we know through research that has been replicated over and over and real-life practice in schools- when teachers are given explicit opportunities to connect and develop relationships with their students in a grassroots and systematic way- the academic achievement and social-emotional status both show significant gains. Kudos to all our SEL leaders out there continuing to advocate for this in our schools.

(1)

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Making the Most of Mentors for Students

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Blogger Suzie Boss provides pointers for teachers on how best to utilize adult mentors who help their students with projects.
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The Mind of a Middle Schooler: How Brains Learn

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Blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron defines important brain terminology while providing a classroom scenario where a middle schooler's brain is hard at work.
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Todd Sentell's picture
Todd Sentell
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

Spike, my favorite student of all time, came to me on test morning one day and said he studied so hard he forgot everything. I knew how the mind of Spike, an 8th grader, worked. I believed him, but handed him the test anyway.

www.actionjacksonart.com

Motown65's picture

Interesting read and definitely relative to the topic of cognitive theory in the classroom. I have found that in the middle school classroom it very important that teachers facilitate construction of meaningful representations by arranging and differentiating instruction in a way that allows students to make the appropriate connections. The "tween" mind is a cosmic whirlwind of hormonal activity that is trying to sort out the world around them. Many times prior learning concepts get replaced by peer-centered interactions and thoughts. This is why middle school teachers have to make clear and concise connections between old and new information; the information should be presented in a way that is both conceptually and socially relevant to the adolescent mind. Interactive discussion, graphic organizers, jigsaws, corners activities, games and technology integration are all invaluable resources for achieving this end.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I wish we taught kids, specifically middle schoolers, more about how their brain works, especially how working memory works. It would be the best information/study skill we can teach them. For example:
There are a bunch of theories about working memory, but the easiest to understand is that there is a "language" portion and a "visual" or physical portion of working memory. So while you can talk on the phone while watering the plants, you can't listen and talk on the phone and write an email at the same time- the language inputs interfere with each other, and get in the way- meaning if you are singing along with your favorite song, you probably can't be doing a great job writing that essay at the same time. However, you can probably walk around the house and study spelling words at the same time, and that's ok.
Also, if you get stressed, one part of your working memory will start to steal "RAM" from the other- like when you are driving and a rain storm hits, you can't always carry on a conversation or listen to the radio at the same time- you need all your concentration on the task at hand- steering the car.
This would be the best "secret brain hack" info you could give kids, so they understand why watching TV and doing homework simultaneously is never a really good idea- you can even run tests in class and prove it to them!

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UC Study: 5 Findings on College Success for Low-Income Youth

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Blogger Bob Lenz shares how urban high schools can increase the number of low-income youth graduating and attending college.
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Are School Librarians Part of Your PBL Dream Team?

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If librarians know about upcoming projects, they can help to spark curiosity even before project launch day.
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Discussion A Great "Beginning of the School Year" Story to Read

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A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals

Related Tags: School Leadership
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Blogger Ben Johnson offers his observations to administrators to help them build better relationships with teachers.
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Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy

Ben, thank you for this post. It's an important topic and needs more attention. I talk to teachers all the time and find that their number one complaint is lack of time, so I would put #3 and #5 at the top of my list.

Recently, I interviewed Carrie, a teacher who left the profession after 6 years, to learn about the factors that influenced her decision. Two issues seemed to be most prevalent in her growing dissatisfaction with teaching.

The first was culture -- Carrie worked in several schools and found that the relationships she formed with other teachers were the key to her day-to-day job satisfaction. In some schools, staff members barely interacted, but in others, the school culture felt like family. This made a huge difference in how it felt to come to work every day. It also influenced teachers' willingness to collaborate, solve problems together, and share strategies and ideas, which in turn make work more satisfying. In all cases, she felt that the culture was created and nurtured, for better or worse, by the administration. I don't know if school leadership programs put enough emphasis on this, but from a teacher's perspective, it's crucial.

The other factor was time. Carrie felt that every day, more and more tasks were piled onto her workload, making her feel as if no one was just letting her teach. I think this is the biggest issue teachers face right now. It doesn't matter how many great ideas or strategies or programs we introduce in schools; if teacher work time is not fiercely and systematically protected by administrators, nothing will change, and good teachers will either burn out or leave.

It's an excellent, honest, and thought-provoking interview. You can listen to it here: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/episode02-carrie-formerteacher/

Thanks again for getting this conversation started!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Excellent points, Jennifer. A good friend of mine recently left her school for another for exactly those reasons.

Ben, this is a great list. Thank you for sharing it.

Heidi Butkus's picture
Heidi Butkus
Kindergarten Teacher and Owner & Founder of HeidiSongs.com

This was a very insightful article! Thank you for writing it. I particularly appreciated your comments on how valuable time is to teachers. I hope many administrators read your article.
Heidi Butkus

Mandy Derfler's picture

Ben,
You provided me with an interesting perspective and some advice I'd love to share with my administrators. I have taught for 13 years, but in those 13 years, I have seen 5 different principals, each with their own unique style and personality. Perhaps the biggest challenge I face when working with my current administration is lack of teaching experience. Sometimes it's difficult for my administrators to gain the "teaching perspective" because they have not had many years in the classroom and they've been away from it for a while. I believe all administrators should take the opportunity to "get back in the classroom". Last year, our assistant principal asked some of our staff members if he could teach a few lessons in their classes. I believe this was a valuable experience for him as it helped him remember what it's like to be in the classroom, and it helped him understand our perspective, our struggles, and our concerns.

Thanks for your thoughts!
Mandy

Dr. Allen Mendler's picture
Dr. Allen Mendler
Author, speaker, educator

You offer good information and some sound advice. At the risk of sounding self-serving, there are lots of compatible fleshed out practical tips & suggestions for how administrators can support teachers in my most recent ASCD book, WHEN TEACHING GETS TOUGH: SMART WAYS TO RECLAIM YOUR GAME.

adriese's picture

# 4 is vital. Teachers need to know the direction the leader is going. I feel this as a new Principal. I'm listening and learning to and from teachers. They say, "tell us what to do". Sometimes I'm a little unsure, other times, im told I'm ramming it down their throats.
My feeling now is balance. You can read more about my 1st yr. here.
www.newschoolleader.com

Cynthia Pilar's picture
Cynthia Pilar
doctoral student

Ben, your perspective is important and I wish more administrators would give thought to the incredibly difficult work teachers do, with little time to plan or collaborate outside of class time, and how much they would benefit from caring, supportive administrators. It has been my experience that teachers also benefit from principals who provide teachers with research, ideas, bright spots, models of success, templates, or other materials that move the necessary work forward rather than having staff spend hours reinventing the wheel. With the very limited time teachers have, they can look at other models and tweak as necessary to meet local needs.

Cynthia Pilar's picture
Cynthia Pilar
doctoral student

Ben, your perspective is important and I wish more administrators would give thought to the incredibly difficult work teachers do, with little time to plan or collaborate outside of class time, and how much they would benefit from caring, supportive administrators. It has been my experience that teachers also benefit from principals who provide teachers with research, ideas, bright spots, models of success, templates, or other materials that move the necessary work forward rather than having staff spend hours reinventing the wheel. With the very limited time teachers have, they can look at other models and tweak as necessary to meet local needs.

Chad Niedert's picture
Chad Niedert
Mathematics Teacher at North Oldham High School

Observation #2 is crucial. My school has been fortunate enough to require students to have a handheld device (iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.) before entering the school as a freshmen. This is a great idea and it is extremely valuable for every student to have internet access at their fingertips without having to go to a lab. However, when the program was rolled out, many teachers were unfamiliar with many of the devices. Teachers struggled with the numerous number of devices and also struggled to find resources that ran across all of the platforms. Unfortunately, this valuable technology has been used for little more than note taking and organization

Doc student's picture
Doc student
Administrator from Yolo County

I understand your perspective. I have often wondered how a person can become an effective, empathetic administrator with only 3 years of classroom experience. I believe that a prosepective administrator should have at least 7-10 years of classroom experience. Therefore many of your tips are not an "a ha" for adminstrators, but rather an "of course". Having been in the classroom for 16 years before entering administration, has given me the confidence and justification to skip meetings and give "individual planning time" instead of having a meeting simply because it is calendered. Unfortunately, like in all arenas, there will be teachers who need to have the meeting to receive that which could have been delivered by email...so, I guess you have that "nuts and bolts" meeting so that you know you delivered the information.
Overall, good tips, but good administrators should intuitively know this, especially if they are seasoned, veteran classroom teachers.

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Brains, Brains, Brains! How the Mind of a Middle Schooler Works

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Blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron launches this three-part series by advising middle school teachers to read up on brain research which will give insight on how the 'tween brain works.
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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

I just want to highlight this section:

"Anything you can do to help a 'tween feel more secure in their abilities and possibilities will potentially improve their achievement in your classroom. Anything you can do to make a 'tween feel more in control becomes a powerful tool for you and for them."

It seems to me that this is true across the age spectrum. At the same time, I can also see how the tween identity can be so precarious that the above becomes especially important.

Great article--I can't wait to read the next two parts!

Savio Rebelo's picture

Well written article. I would also add that middle-school is one of the more important periods in a child's life where parents need to keep communicating with teachers more often than sometimes. Parents also need to regularly talk to kids about their school life and listen to what they have to say in a welcoming setting. When kids (especially middle-schoolers) know that their parents are there for them they tend to talk if they need to kids an out to talk if they need to. Middle-schoolers face the challenging road through adolescence and strong parental involvement in middle-school years will develop stronger and confident adults.

http://www.saviorebelo.com

Lisa Carey's picture
Lisa Carey
Education Consultant @ Kennedy Krieger Institute

Middle School teachers seeking additional information about the brains of their students should start their search with "Executive Functioning." While executive function (or dysfunction) is often a topic more associated with educational disabilities, the developing brain of a typical middle schooler is just bringing its EF skills "online" and supporting EF and its further development will only help your students to become more confident and independent learners. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has a wonderful (and free!) guide to EF on its website( http://www.ncld.org/) titled "Executive Function 101". One of the most important concepts to keep in mind is that for a middle school student, you can have new and rigorous content, or you can have high EF demands, but you will never yield great results when you try to have both simultaneously.

Lynn's picture
Lynn
Associate PProfessor of Applied Linguistics, Portland State Univesity

There's an interesting study Blackwell, Trzesniewski and Dweck (2007) that actually taught 7th graders that intelligence isn't fixed but malleable. The ones that were taught that intelligence isn't fixed had more positive attitudes and stopped a downward trend in grades.
The link to the article is here: http://www.stanforduniversity.info/dept/psychology/cgi-bin/drupalm/syste...
The materials they used (or something very similar) is here:http://www.isacs.org/misc_files/Brain%20Article.pdf

It's a simple lesson that could be incorporated into a lot of middle school classrooms.

tamika's picture

Remembering the fact that middle schoolers brains are at a particular stage in its development, can help to keep adults patient and also a step ahead of these super savvy insane adolescents, who were no more different than many of us! So, thank you for reminding me that tweens aren't just deciding to give us a hard time, they are just undergoing a painful metamorphosis. We just have to give them the tools to manage this time and blossom into functioning young adults...

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