How to Add Creativity and Teacher Autonomy to Instruction

With a diverse population of students in schools at present, students must learn from standards that reflect and support the individuals they are. The old-fashioned means of teaching status quo standards to all students have failed to promote academic excellence of students across the board. All students, especially Blacks and Hispanics, as indicated by common research, need a teaching approach that is understood and make sense to all different types of students.

In order to teach all students appropriately and effectively, the required standards must be tweaked and sprinkled with creativity. This requirement would challenge administrators to allow teachers to have autonomy and to practice knowledge they have acquired pertaining to teaching and use their own ideas to enhance instruction that they, themselves, believe will help all students.

Research supports that “Educators can create new paths to learning standards by providing more learning options for students. Not all children learn in the same way, or in the same time. By offering more routes to the standards, teachers enable more children to reach them.”

In support of the above quote, the writer of this blog highlights research-based ideas presented by seminal legwork for administrators and teachers to transport to ameliorate their schools for student effectiveness. The research ideas are delineated as written, and, by this writer, an enhanced method of the same idea is recommended.

According to research, school administrators can take the following steps to produce high-achieving schools:

* Create professional development plans to ensure that teachers receive best practices training.
Enhanced: Allow teachers to choose their own topics for professional development. Research shows that many teachers are bored participating in professional development programs that have very little impact on their teacher-influence or on their student-learning. Teachers will be far more appreciative of professional development if they undergo training they need and will indeed use. Besides, only teachers know of skills they need in which to improve.

* Provide time for teachers to work together and coach each other in applying effective instructional techniques.
Enhanced: While teacher collaboration is a good idea for meeting teaching and learning goals, administrators should make sure that teachers placed in groups have learning ideas in common and that they respect one another as individuals and will add to teaching ideas to make them effective for students and for schools. Human nature and the psychology of people can affect scenarios negatively if the right chemistry or the right growth mindsets of teachers collaborating are not in harmony.

* Hire reading specialists to address the needs of struggling readers — especially in the early grades.
Enhanced: Hiring reading specialists is a good idea to aid elementary students, where evidence shows that children learn best in the first three (some research says six) years of their lives. However, by middle school, and most especially by high school, administrators should hold their English teachers accountable for helping students become more proficient readers. Reading is in fact literacy. Reading is in fact an element of language, and English teachers in fact instruct language. Therefore, if given autonomy of being creative to reach their own assigned students’ learning needs, teachers should not need reading specialists’ aid because teachers would have been empowered to intervene in the reading process of learning in a creative and helpful manner.

* Hire highly trained teachers to provide intervention for at-risk populations.
Enhanced: To hire trained teachers should be the goal of every administrator; yet, in times of immediate need, administrators may not be able to locate the perfect teacher for teaching at-risk students. Therefore, administrators must hire the best of the applicants that reveal themselves. If selecting the best applicant is not familiar with teaching at-risk students yet is inclined to teach them, administrators may use this opportunity to offer immediate training in working with at-risk students. This idea will be a bonus for administrators because they will be able to discern the extent of the potential hired teacher’s work ethic.  Thus, there is hope in finding inclined teachers to teach at risk kids, especially when they have administrators’ support, yet administrators must act prudently in making this important decision.

* Provide high-quality summer school programs with follow-up intervention during the school year.
Enhanced: Summer school may be helpful, yet overall it can be a waste of time for all personnel involved. A better strategy to consider is to be proactive during the school year by ensuring teachers are meeting teaching expectations and students are learning. A type of micromanagement might be necessary in this particular case. Once teachers and students are held accountable throughout the school year, an opportunity for summer school will not be necessary because students and teachers will have met recovery of learning by being proactive, not reactive, during instruction.

Teachers can do the following to bring about successful learning environments.
* Use creative and flexible scheduling to extend learning time for students who need it.
Enhanced: Extra-time should entail students’ own time. Whatever students are unable to complete during school time should be allowed for students to finish for homework. To enforce completion of homework, however, a students’ parents should be notified to ensure their children complete the homework. In any case, teachers will be able to document opportunities that students were offered extra time to complete classwork. A note of caution, nevertheless, is that administrators should be careful by adding extra time to teachers’ already busy schedules unless teachers volunteer to help. A better idea to consider is for teachers to maximize their time in the classroom by working in the zone and providing motivation for students to complete their assignments.

* Create classrooms that accommodate different learning styles.
Enhanced: Good idea. Yet, classrooms do not have to be singled out for learning styles. In other words, sections cut out in the classroom to indicate certain learning styles should not become the norm. An idea to consider for learning styles is to allow students to create their own responses to assignments. For effectiveness of learning, however, students must be retaught the same lesson regularly and should be presented in different ways. This idea will also give teachers different styles of lessons to assess, which will guarantee smiles on their faces and alleviate boredom from having to grade many similar-in-style-assignments. 

* Use ongoing, performance-based assessment to guide daily teaching decisions.
Enhanced: Absolutely! An ongoing assessment from teachers should transpire in classrooms and at students’ homes with their parents’ aid. To add to this assessment, teachers might wish to consider mini-rewards as incentives for students to persevere in learning to determine the extent applied to enforce successful outcomes for student performance based assessments. In the end, nevertheless, the only important benchmark to meet will be the identified scores that students should have earned. This goal of excellence can happen when administrators grant teacher autonomy to allow teacher creativity to guide daily teaching instructions.

Teaching diverse students is a challenge for all schools; no novel idea should be shunned to help meet students’ need. Allowing students to discover lessons in their own way will inspire them to attempt lessons and give teachers something tangible to assess in order to motivate students to persevere. While the research based ideas presented herein (italicized) are valid and helpful, extending teachers autonomy to be creative to meet all their students’ needs are even more helpful.

Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. (2020)

 

 

How to Teach Effectively

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How To Teach Effectively

Teaching is imparting knowledge or skill to learners, right? Well, yes—but more: Teaching is imparting knowledge and managing students simultaneously.

The days for standing in front of students lecturing went nonviral decades ago. Today it takes a more lively environment to teach in the 21st Century.

Teaching requires being in the zone, watching and facilitating, allowing students to partake in their own learning. Students have opportunities to discover and create their own lessons when they are given autonomy of doing so.

While lecturing has its appeal—introducing new lessons, providing anecdotes to enhance imminent lessons, communicating with students, simply by relating to their personal interests, students nevertheless must be actively engaged in learning that lecturing rarely provides.

How to engage students? Well, “Flipping the Classroom” is one such style, as it requires students to take over the classroom rather than educators teaching most of the time. Flipping the classroom allows students to apply the learning objectives to discover new ideas about the lessons and to create assignments in their way, and then to explain the importance of the lessons and share how they plan to use the lessons to better their lives; flipping the classroom keeps students involved because they, not so much educators, are doing the work.

Moreover, when students create their own lesson-designs, good grades should follow whether or not “little Johnnie,” for instance, understood the gist of the assignment. He did indeed complete the lesson based on instructions, did he not? “Be creative; discover.” Good teaching is providing good grades for the student and making complimentary, helpful notes on his assignments to cheer little Johnny along in learning so that negative grades will not hurt little Johnnie’s feelings, prompting him to give up trying.

Good teaching is extending the “most good” to every student. Everyday teaching is challenging because educators must also contend with individual-student concerns—on the spot. At this juncture, good teaching converts to good discipline. In doing so, educators must prepare themselves how to constructively handle common teaching scenarios.

When students venture off task, and some of them will, educators should reassess their students’ management plans. Educators may ask themselves “Have students and I maintained civility by recognizing human traits we have in common? In other words, have we insisted on effective teaching and serious learning of the standards, so that everyone’s fullest potential is reached? Have we shown a sense of humor to lighten the load of the class work? Have we been helpful to one another, assisting the other when necessary? Most importantly, have we been patient with one another, not accepting one’s innate ways as a bother but as a pleasure to help the other?

What to do when educators and students have indeed recognized and acknowledged the basic human decencies, yet misbehavior continues? Well, educators may resort to enforcing good student behavior and effective learning by following the effective teaching tips below:

(1) Talk with the student: Explain the importance of learning, and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes asking the student for his fine behavior and continuance of learning is the only caution necessary for misbehavior to disappear.

(2) As an assignment, instruct student to research the words “tack” and “deference.” Ask the student to assess his learning. Student will appreciate the learning but also will appreciate the teaching of important-civil words.

(3) Focus on the task or misbehavior, not on the student. Even if the student is wrong, he may be reluctant to admit it. A student may easily recoil if he feels singled-out.

(4) Provide a lot of positive reinforcement: Motivation. Motivation. Motivation.

(5) Talk earnestly with the student about the human-traits. When reminded, the student will behave appropriately because she will have recognized principles her mama or grand-mama taught her. Besides, a human being knows–deep in his soul–to show respect. Just politely remind her.

(6) Apologize if the student’s feelings have been hurt. Yet, ask for and extend cordial behavior.

(7) Contact parents. Yet, do not complain about their child. Only ask for the parents’ support.

(8) Keep an eye on the student to show that he is being watched. He will secretly like and respect the minimal attention.

(9) When addressing student, call him by his name. A student enjoys the attention he receives by hearing his name, and he appreciates that his presences is realized.

(10) End of day, go home. Rest. Reflect. Start anew.

Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. (2020)

Teacher

Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction

Professional Development Presenter

 

 

 

 

How to Punctuate Life-Giving Sentences

Learners’ ability to apply punctuation correctly—and sometimes creatively—in their writing is critically important. Without applying the proper usage of punctuation, writers may unintentionally provide the wrong message, which, at times, can be unintentionally comical or offensive or unintelligible to read. Moreover, studies show that some students find it difficult to use punctuation marks during reading and writing, and research shows that students do not practice adequately nor sensibly enough to master the skill of punctuation. Therefore, learning how to apply punctuation correctly while writing or reading is necessary.

Punctuation is a useful tool because it indicates pauses and emphases on ideas and thoughts that are in context of a discourse. Consider the following two statements: “I’m sorry! I love you!” compared to “I’m sorry. . . I love you.” The first statement displays an angry tone with the use of an exclamation point (!), whereas the second statement displays a calm, sincere tone with the use of the period (.) and the ellipsis points (. . . ). Depending on the message writers intend to convey, their knowledge of punctuation will guide them in choosing the correct marks for the right delivery and tone in writing.

To maintain a good tone and delivery, according to research, punctuation helps to support two levels of its own: (1) A sentence level that connotes the structures of a discourse and (2) a sentence level that links words. These structures of words help make sense out of the intended context when the structures are punctuated properly. Without applying the levels of punctuation, sentences will be incomprehensible and possibly annoying to readers.

The point of punctuation is to ensure the learners’ writings are expressed in the manner that they intended. Therefore, if students take the time necessary to understand how to use punctuation in their writing, they will be able to discern how learning about punctuation is beneficial, especially if they aspires to become business leaders or the sort. Learners will need to possess good writing skills to compete for professional job titles.

When learning how to apply punctuation marks correctly in writing, learners may need to repeat practicing lessons often in order to fully understand a punctuation mark’s concept. This type of repetition for learning could be time consuming and tedious, Thus, a method to help facilitate this learning is to practice punctuation by analyzing thought-provoking sentences that require a second or a third reading due to the sentence-complexity. Trying to unravel the meaning of the sentence gives learners an opportunity for punctuating sentences in different mediums, extending the extra practice for learning. The sentences may compel learners to think about the implication of the sentences constructed and to discern how the sentences transport relevance to their lives.

Usually, when learning about punctuation, the pupil encounters plain sentences, ones that have insignificant life meanings. The sentences are usually ordinary even though they are easy to follow. Yet, in advanced studies, studies that reveal carefully constructed sentences, learners may encounter sentences that relate to real world issues. The sentences can help illustrate survival lessons. Besides, well-constructed sentences provide rigor in thinking and elicit the workout necessary for punctuating sentences correctly— or creatively.

To learn more about punctuating and analyzing rigorous sentences, try practicing using the exercises found within the pages of Life Is How You Punctuate It 2! by Cynthia Mathews with Yulia Grecu. The 6 X 9 paper/felt cover in full color with authors’ pictures displayed in dialogue form throughout the book will help guide learners in understanding the rules of punctuation. Each practice sentence is pungent in tone; moreover, the book offers stimulating activities based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and provides answer keys immediately after each lesson.

In life, learners must be vigilant about learning and living; Life Is How You Punctuate it 2! will express how learners may proceed. In any case, learn about punctuation and how to apply it to writing. Readers will feel grateful for the life’s lessons.

learn how to punctuate as you learn how to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Reset Classroom Rules during COVID-19

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. . Just being proactive until guidelines about teaching and managing students are made available through research. . .

. . . Please feel free to share your comments below. . .

How to teach in midst of COVID-19

In the past school year, if you have struggled with student management, dealing with almost every classroom disruption of learning—student defiance, student apathy, student inertia, student ill-manners, and, contrarily, student-willingness to learn, then you might already be contemplating how you will manage your students the upcoming school year in light of COVID-19, a potentially deadly virus that plagues many people. 

How will you teach required learning objectives and protect yourself and students in the most sensible, researchable, pedagogical way? This question requires critical thought because some young students (elementary-secondary) may erroneously believe that COVID-19 does not affect them because they are too young in age for the virus, and since they may not be directly influenced by the virus, they, in their words, do not reason to alter their normal behavior in a classroom environment.

Perhaps resetting your classroom rules may help.

You as teacher understand the potential dangers of COVID-19, and for this reason you understand to teach your students the critical meaning of the virus and to implore students to show prudence about the virus and to extend empathy towards the situation. 

Through direct instruction of COVID-19, you as teacher can make a positive difference in students’ understanding of it. An open conversation and appropriate examples illustrated will help bring about awareness and help lend harmony to instruction.

With COVID-19 information added to your regular classroom rules, you will be able to manage your students’ behavior. Simply instruct facts about COVID-19, and students will be able to make decisions based on their character and empathy for others once they understand. With other classroom rules already delineated, you will only need to enforce the new rules.

Since newness of the virus has impeded fast implementation of classroom rules, school policies have not been availble to follow, yet policies will come forth soon to direct strategies to enforce classroom behavior of students to help teachers maintain a smooth learning environment. 

Meanwhile, until such polices are set in place, below are 10 classroom suggestions to help you remind students to put forth their good behavior and to help YOU as teacher maintain student-respect and uphold order in your classroom:

CLASSROOM PRINCIPLES (Rules):

(1) Sit up straight to participate in classroom learning.

(2) Remain seated, and ask permission to leave seat.

(3) Keep hands to yourself, and sanitize them regularly.

(4) Keep voice low and conversation minimal.

(5) Wear a protective face mask if required or desired.

(6) Be respectful toward others.

(7) Be serious about learning, and do your best to be your best.

(8) Be kind.

(9) Use technology to research answers for any learning questions you may have.

(10) Ask teacher for help if necessary.

NOTE- Of course, tailor the rules to your specific needs: Only remember to make the rules meaningful and noticeable, and review RULES with your class(es) every single day:

Below are more helpful tips for creating your poster rules.

✅Enlarge rules on 3×4 paper card board.

✅Make font of rules 24.

✅Maintain rules in a business format with few designs or colors for a serious appearance.

✅Position classroom rules in front, in back, and on side walls.

✅Type rules on teacher-made-class-assignments for further reinforcement.

✅ Allow students to read rules aloud in class and/or to discuss the rules.

✅Thank students for following rules. 

Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D (2020)

How to use Skinner’s theory to Motivate Students to Learn

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“Come in, Mrs. Peters.”

“I am sorry to bother you. I know it’s your break time, Doc, but I just had to remove myself from my class a moment.”

“Is everything all right? You appear bothered.”

“I am okay. My students, on the other hand, appear not to be. They are extremely unmotivated. I can hardly get them to write a paragraph or to read a paragraph or to sit-up to listen. . . It’s quite frustrating.“

“I understand. Student apathy can weigh heavily on educators. Yet, we should remember the many rules of motivation, and to apply the rules appropriately for each kid.”

(Sigh) “Yes, I suppose. . . I read the pamphlet you shared with me on Skinner’s Operant Conditioning, the theory that supports rewarding students to motivate them to complete their class assignments. I tried it, and still students do not respond.”

“Skinner’s Operant Conditioning (1950’s), although popularized decades ago, continues to have relevance. Its theory is a means to an end and supports human nature by mimicking the inclination to receive before to give; yet Operant Conditioning may have little to no influence on students if students’ apathy is of another source than unwillingness. . . In support of Skinner’s views, we, humans, indeed, adore receiving presents. Awards are presents; thus, Operant Conditioning reflects an abundance of substance in its theory (Pause). . . Have you tried using a questionnaire to determine causes of your students’ apathy?”

“No.”

“Look for the causes. Ask pertinent questions to the issues you raise, and apply Operant Conditioning where you better understand that motivation should be applied. . . In most cases, students need encouragement to persevere, which could be the conditioning necessary for them to push themselves. Also, remember that a theory is just that: a theory, and many abound—intrinsic, extrinsic—and then the extent of these two— quality and quantity of motivation has to be considered.”

“I suppose it’s a good idea to explore theories of motivation. Operant Conditioning—I understand the sense of it, yet discovering other theories, too, might help me to expedite my resolve.”

“Absolutely. Children are unique. They need their own type of medicine for knowledge.”

“Are you a fan of Skinner’s Ideas?”

“Actually Skinner was my motivation to seek further into motivation. I am yet to discover a theory that makes more sense than his reward conditioning.”

“It’s always helpful to me to talk with you, Doc. Thank you for listening and supporting as you do . . . I must get back to class now. . . Sorry I took up your break time.”

“Sharing with you was no bother. . . It’s my reward to you—“ (Doc smiles as Mrs. Peters exits the door).

NOTE: Many theories explain types of motivation and suggest how to motivate, yet keep in mind that motivation is about action, and one of the best ways to propel people into action is to stir their interests by providing the stimulus that sway them.

To simply the idea of Skinner’s Operant Conditioning for motivating students to learn, consider the following:

(1) Similar to most animals, most humans can be conditioned to learn.

(2) More people than not appreciate gifts and prizes.

(3) Most rewards can be a small treat, such as “please” “thank you” “I am sorry,” “you can do it.” Smile.

(4) Ask students about their likes and dislikes.

(5) Provide lessons that will stimulate students into action.

B.K. Skinner “Operant Conditioning” (1953). “Motivating from the past,” a dialogue, developed by Dr. Cynrhia Mathews, to aid teachers and educators alike to motivate their students to learn.

Dr. Cynthia Mathews —