Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 2/10/2017
I have two children who are students in the Rochester Public Schools system. My simultaneously shy, but social daughter struggles to balance a busy schedule and homework. My sweet, bright son does well academically, but needs extra guidance when it comes to social situations. Both of my children have a mom and dad cheering them on, advocating endlessly, and fighting the fights they are unable to find the courage to tackle. What I mean to say is my kids are lucky. Really lucky.
Despite the social and academic challenges they face as individuals, my children have everything they need to face the school day with success. They sleep in warm beds at night, have access to food on a daily basis, are provided with reliable transportation, and have available to them all the comforts of home—including a place to do homework. If one is a student who is not as lucky as my children—if one is a student who might not have access to a place to sleep, food, or a home—how do students face the challenges of a school day? How do students do homework when you have no home?
The McKinney-Vento Law is legislation that helps to guide school districts in the process of identifying and serving students who may be experiencing homelessness. At of the date of this post, more than 400 students in Rochester Public Schools have been identified as living in unstable housing situations. These students live in one of our three local shelters, stay in low-cost local hotels, or live with relatives because of an economic hardship. They often lack access to the internet and do not have a reliable device on which to check Moodle, Google Classroom, or Skyward. Beyond the traditional electronic struggles, students experiencing homelessness may not have the basic supplies (like notebooks, backpacks, and art supplies) or a place to keep the items they need to complete the daily work assigned.
As the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator, I work to provide school stability for students whose living situation may not be stable. Through the Transitions Program we can provide transportation to a student’s school of origin, access to free breakfast and lunch at school, access to community resources, assistance with school supplies, and a connection to a student’s school social worker. In addition, RPS works collaboratively with many community resources and organizations that assist with housing, medical and dental needs, food resources, and much more.
In order to provide these resources though, identification is key. There are a few ways that each school professional can help identify students who might be experiencing homelessness. Here are a few tips for educators from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY):
Through identification, we are able to provide support. Through support, we may be able to provide the only stability a student knows. My children have what they need to face the challenges of the school day, imagine what is possible if all students were to have access to what they needed!
Also, for more information on the McKinney-Vento Act, watch this video created by Anoka-Hennepin Schools:
This post brought to you by Melissa Brandt, the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Melissa Brandt via email or by calling 507.328.4230
Getting students to talk more seems like a very simple task. Students talk all the time, right?! Sometimes, it’s hard to get them to stop talking! The question is: are students using social language or academic language? Our goal should be to increase academic talk in our classrooms, while encouraging students to continue to develop their social language. Seems easy right? Not always true, as I have discovered in my teaching experiences.
Here is an example of a lesson that I learned a lot from:
Interaction is a key component of SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Promotional). We often say we want students to talk more and teachers to talk less. However, before we can expect students to interact and use academic language, we first need to teach them the procedures and routines to do so. The error I made was I wanted students to use the academic language, but I had not taught them how to do so in the Turn and Talk.
So, here are some eight steps to help you not make the same mistake by instead creating an environment that teaches students how to build the skills needed to interact with one another and to use academic language (Echevarría and Short).
| 1 |
Teach students how to listen to each other.
If we want students to talk, we need to teach them also how to listen. What does listening to each other look like? Model for students what active listening looks like. Have students practice listening skills using social conversations first (i.e. tell each other about their favorite TV show) and then move into more content-rich conversations.
| 2 |
Teach students how to respectfully speak to one another.
What types of respectful words or phrases do you hear (I agree with you because…, I don't know that I can agree with you, and here's why...)? Provide sentence frames and model how to use them. Hang them up or write them on the board for students as a reference or to keep in a journal.
| 3 |
Align the conversation to lesson objectives.
Make sure students know the goal of the lesson. That way they know if their academic conversations are on-topic or on-target. If they are not on-topic, remind them of the target or objective to help get them back on track.
| 4 |
Pose questions that prompt high-quality discussions.
If you want students to increase their academic language, then make sure questions lend themselves to higher-order thinking skills. Questions should make students think, clarify, predict, or explain. A question such as “Tell your partner one fact about the Gettysburg Address” could be changed to “What do you think the reaction of the crowd was after President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and why would he have reacted that way?”
| 5 |
Teach students to ask questions or expand their thinking.
Students often need to be taught how to keep a conversation going. Put question and sentence frames around the room that expand discussions, such as Tell me more about …, Why do you think… I heard you say…, That made me think of …, Do you think that …, or That idea connects to the story by …. These frames allow students to build on each other’s thoughts and create engaging conversations.
| 6 |
Link oral discussion to reading and writing.
Academic speaking and listening are deeply tied to reading and writing. Student discussions that are linked to text bring forth deeper academic discussions.
| 7 |
Set reasonable time limits.
Think about how long it will take students to talk to each other. Don’t let a turn and talk that lasts 1-2 minutes turn into 10 minutes. This creates wasted academic time and often leads to off-task behavior.
| 8 |
Hold students accountable for their talk.
Let students know that you are listening to them. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Have a clipboard and write down what students say. Them, when the class is brought back together, talk about the great conversations you heard. Provide examples and discuss why these conversations were so powerful. This will motivate students moving forward because they know you are listening and sharing out their examples and ideas.
Consider using all of these eight steps to take your classroom conversations to the next level. I know they certainly helped my students.
If you would like to study these ideas future, consider reading the article "Student Interaction Gone Awry" by Jana Echevarría, and/or watching the Teaching Channel video "Talk Moves in Academic Discussions". Both provide great ideas on how to help students interact.
And, of course, feel free to connect with me directly. I would love to help you increase the academic talk in your classroom.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
October is the month of Halloween, often the first time in months that our students will see snow, National Sarcasm Awareness Month, National Toilet Tank Repair Month (that is actually true) and the list goes on and on yet we wonder why we may be seeing some interesting behaviors in our classrooms this time of year. Check out some of the suggestions below on how you can reduce/prevent behaviors from occurring in your classroom.
Start with yourself
Be careful that your frustration is not landing on one or two students in the classroom resulting in blaming. Don’t assume when something happens that is it a certain student and then call them out for it! Do a proper investigation and be slow to place blame.
Sometimes when behaviors increase we can easily overreact. Teaching can be stressful at times and can test our patience. If you are getting frustrated, it is easy to make a small infraction seem like a big behavior issue. Check in with yourself and make sure that you aren’t overreacting.
A lot of research has been done to show how important your room arrangement is and how it can impact the climate in your classroom. Check out these room arrangement tips:
Flexible seating: When students have choice in seating options that best fit their learning style they are able to better focus on the task at hand. Give your students the choice (within reason) of moving to an area of the room that they feel they can learn best in. Consider providing standing and sitting options within your room. If students are easily distracted, consider placing them in a spot in your classroom where they won’t be easily distracted. For example take note of who is sitting by the door and whether this is the best place for the student. The door is a high traffic area and not a good place for a student who is easily distracted.
Student misbehavior is often a sign that students are overwhelmed and are in need of a break! Learn to recognize when students need time to take a break and move. Here are some easy brain break ideas:
Physical Challenges Challenge students to do something physically difficult, such as standing on one foot with arms extended, or this one: Grab your nose with left hand, and grab your left earlobe with your right hand, and then quickly switch so that your right hand is on your nose and your left hand is grabbing your right earlobe.
Animal Pretend Younger grades will enjoy pretending to be various animals (or even objects such as lawn mowers or airplanes). Call out different examples.
Trading Places Have students stand behind their pushed-in chairs. Call out a trait, and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: “Everyone with curly hair.” “Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast.”
Never underestimate the power of a strong student-teacher relationship. Oftentimes we start the year with a focus on building relationships with our students and by October we often lose sight that it is an ongoing process. It takes time to build relationships! Don’t give up! Here are some relationship building tips:
Morning Meeting: If it has been a while since you have done a morning meeting it's time to try it again! Morning meetings have been proven to increase relationships between teachers and students but also amongst peers. Don’t be afraid to take time every morning for a morning meeting. The relationships you build will help you throughout the day. If you build the routine in every day, students will learn that it is time to connect with their school family and become more invested in supporting each other.
Greeting Students: When was the last time you greeted your students when they come in the door? Students want to know you are excited to have them in your classroom even if the day before was a tough day. Every day is a chance to start fresh! Don’t forget to greet your students as they walk in and tell them how happy you are that you get to be their teacher.
Weekly Reflections: Once a week have students share one thing that was positive about their week and one thing that was negative. In groups have students brainstorm solutions for their peers on how they can problem solve the not-so-positive event that has occurred. Students will learn to build capacity amongst themselves and will learn to rely on each other to problem solve when issues arise.
After all, don’t we want our students to be able to effectively solve issues without our support?
I leave you with two very important thoughts: “There are no bad kids. Just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs they only way they know how” (Lansbury), and “Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart” (Breaux).
Lansbury, Janet. “Respectful Patenting w/ “No Bad Kids” Author Janet Lansbury” The Adopting Teens & Tweens Radio Forum, March 2016.
Breaux, Annette, Education Speakers Group
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, Elementary Principal on Special Assignment
Principles to Actions, Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, the 2014 groundbreaking publication from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) lists productive disposition as one of the five interrelated strands that together, constitute mathematical proficiency. The other four strands include:
The National Research Council defines productive disposition as the tendency to see sense in mathematics, to perceive it as both useful and worthwhile, to believe that steady effort in learning mathematics pays off, and to see oneself as an effective learner and doer of mathematics (2001).
While instruction to develop competency in these first four strands are often easier to understand and implement, developing productive disposition in students tends to remain more elusive. A disposition is a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character. Inherent is defined as existing in something as a permanent, essential or characteristic attribute. Productive disposition in mathematics is a combination of a positive attitude toward math and one’s own math identity and perseverance to stay with something until you succeed. As teachers, how do we develop this within our students?
The first step is to address our own, as well as our students’ attitudes about math. We all need to develop positive math identities. Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. In her book Building Powerful Numeracy in Middle and High School Students, (also a great resource) Pamela Weber Harris’s motto is “math is figure-out-able!” We need our students to truly believe this. We also need them to embrace the quote by American philosopher and psychologist William James, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."
The best resource I found for helping teachers develop a positive disposition in their students came from the American Psychological Association. Barbara McCombs, PhD from the University of Denver has developed Teacher’s Modules for applying psychological science to practical instructional problems in the classroom. This comprehensive and user friendly resource entitled Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students “provides tools for what teachers of all age groups can do to inspire natural curiosity, creativity and autonomous lifelong learning.” I encourage you to check it out.
Just for fun, a parting thought… Coincidence or not?
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.