Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Multitasking Teachers

The Multitasking Teacher-it's not just the students doing it!

Sorry, what did you say? I was trying to submit attendance while you asked when the assembly begins. In order to be a good teacher I have to slow time and demands down so that I can give attention to doing a good job-it saves time in the end.

Like many teachers, I operate under the assumption that I can do many things at once: monitor students in the hall, take attendance, begin a class warm-up, give students returning from absence their make-up work and answer a question from another student about last-night's homework. Whoops-there's an announcement, 4 students were just called to pick up items in the office at the next class change. Where was I?

While there ARE things that I can do in combination such as record attendance and return papers, there are many things that just cannot be done well if not given enough attention. Routines in the classroom alleviate many of the multitasking issues for me, so that students know when the right time is to confirm make-up work (at the end of the 1st 10 minute chunk when I can answer you individually), when the right time for questions about homework is (second 5 minutes when I'm asking for feedback and questions so that we can all benefit from the answer). Students new to my class in 7th grade take about three weeks to learn the routine, so I find myself saying "Patientia" quite a bit.

Students can learn patience and increase their attention to the task at hand. I've had a few students so accustomed to getting the answer on the spot, having the teacher jump to meet needs immediately, that they will actually follow on my heels repeating the question after I've indicated that I've heard them and will be responding at the appropriate time! Luckily, the neediness for them to be able to "click" on me to get an answer wanes and the trust that the appropriate time will present itself grows. The students slow down the demands and I can focus on each element of my class completely. Happily, when I do slow down, the students relax too and everyone seems to feel more satisfied with the result.

What are some routines that you hope to establish this year so that you don't feel pulled in six directions at once? How do you help students establish their own routines that build their confidence and increase their attention on the task at hand?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Brain Rules

Brain Rules by John Medina is my current obsession. With a simple set of rules and the neuroscience to back it up, he presents the best ways to learn, the complications that we face in learning and some solutions that make perfect sense given the direction that we need to head in education.

This point, about recognition of vocabulary, in particular attracts my attention as a Latin teacher. I've sung the attributes of Wordchamp, but Brain Rules shows not only why it works but how to make it even better-something that is a constant challenge. We know that when students practice new vocabulary with a picture they hold onto the knowledge longer-but how do we increase the power of the connection and make sure that no matter the context, the learning is maintained? Well, the research here says that one of the options we should be making more use of is showing the picture, and saying the word aloud WITHOUT the text below the picture. Not every time, but definitely at certain times in the learning process. Why? The visual interpretation of the writing of the word can create interference-we can get a stronger, more direct connection by using the picture/sound combo especially if it's got a good emotional trigger.

More cards like this:

So how should I apply this? I have stacks of hundreds of vocabulary "cards" in wordchamp, and I need to examine them to make sure the picture is on the right mark, and also make copies of the sets WITHOUT the text, and assign the students the task of viewing/listening (which is easily done in wordchamp). After they hit okay, the student hears a voice say the correct word.

Next, attention and multitasking.