Category Archives: joyful teaching

Positive Storytelling

We can learn a lot from the Olympics.  As you watched the performance of great athletes, did you wonder how they achieved such high goals?  Was it all practice and persistence?  Or was mindset an important part as well?  What if we applied some of the same mindset practices to the classroom?

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, dissects the athletic performance of Michael Phelps.  One of his most significant habits is the role of visualization or positive storytelling.  Each morning before he gets out of bed, Michael Phelps replays a tape in his head of winning the perfect race.  He imagines every detail from start to finish, the feel of the water against his skin, his body executing the perfect stroke, touching the wall in a victorious finish. Again before going to sleep at night, Michael Phelps retells the story of a great race-in his mind.  When asked what winning felt like after a real race, he responds that it felt natural,  just as he imagined it.  Positive storytelling sets the stage for the real thing.

How to use positive storytelling

As educators, we can use the same imagery to plan and create the best school day.  I’ve written in previous posts about setting an intention for our day.  What if we went beyond intention and using Phelps’s example, we created a positive story for the day and shared it each morning with our students?  It might go something like this:

Good Morning students, it’s a great day at XYZ school.  Sit up straight but relaxed, close your eyes and let me tell you what today has in store.  We will begin with a math lesson and I want you to take a minute and imagine yourself focused and engaged in learning about decimals.  You are going to be great at this.  Next is PE and I want you to see yourself…(create your own script here)  Finally I want you to know that you are smart, you are kind and you are someone with great value.  Find someone today to lift up with a random act of kindness.  Open your heart and your mind to the possibilities ahead in this day.  Open your eyes and let’s get started.

Once you have modeled this positive story telling technique with students, you can ask students to write or draw their own story for a positive day.  Then begin the day with a few moments of quiet reflection where they close their eyes and imagine their own positive story.  Not only will you be teaching students how to plan for the day ahead, but you will be teaching them a mindset skill that will serve them in the future.  Positive storytelling is a powerful habit that can transform students’ lives, one day at a time.

 

Related Posts:

Begin School Year with Intention

Change Manic Mornings to Tranquil Transitions

10 things joyful teachers do differently

 

 Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

 

 

 

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

As the school year begins, an important part of starting school for every teacher is establishing communication with parents.  This is especially true in the younger years but even in later years, teachers have a responsibility to keep parents informed.  Depending on how you set up your system, this can be a chore or an opportunity to engage parents in a positive way in their child’s education.  Here are ten ways to insure success without stressing yourself out…

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

  1. Have a plan for positive feedback-Every parent wants their child to be successful and you can start the year off on a positive note by sharing something positive in the first week of school with parents.  Since kids are usually on their best behavior for the first week or so, this shouldn’t be too hard!  Make sure every parent hears something positive from you about their child.
  2. Set boundaries around your time and let parents know what they are–Be clear about when you can answer questions and at what point you are available to respond to emails and/or phone calls.  This is important for parents but it’s also important for your peace of mind. You are doing yourself and the parents a favor when you define the time that  you are off work and spending time with your own family.
  3. Have regular routines for communication-Let parents know what they can expect from you.  Does work go home once weekly or daily? How often should they check agendas, backpacks, special folders?  Don’t assume parents will just naturally understand what you expect.  Make it clear from the beginning… then remind them periodically.  We all have busy, complicated lives that involve juggling many roles.
  4. Be authentic–Let parents know something about you and your own story.  If you are a parent with preschoolers and juggling your career with being a parent, let parents know.  If you are working on your masters at night and teaching during the day, share that.  This doesn’t mean you are looking for sympathy or support (hopefully you are getting that elsewhere!), just that the more real you are with others, the better the chance you will connect in a positive way.
  5. Be open to suggestions– Even if you’ve done something the same way for the last fifteen years, listen when parents suggest changing in some way.  What may have worked well in the beginning, may no longer be the best way to stay in touch. You don’t have to follow every suggestion or whim but honor the request with your attention.
  6. Be aware that everything you do is communication-While there are many formal ways that you will communicate, be aware that everything you do is communication.  Even displaying student work, jotting a quick note on a homework paper or the wording in your weekly newsletter or your class website, leaves a permanent impression of who you are.  Always consider how it will come across to others.
  7. Express gratitude-Teachers are usually great at writing thank you notes for end of the year gifts but what about a thank you for the parent who spent time running off copies for you or the one who was a chaperon during the field trip?  Again, it doesn’t have to be a formal note.  A smile and a sincere thanks can work just as well.
  8. Recognize parent effort-Most parents are putting forth a lot of effort to be the best they know how to be.  Be sure to give them a compliment even for things that we might consider “expected”.  Thank them for taking the time to attend a meeting or for making sure their child completes homework, for example. You never know the effort or the story behind the end result.
  9. Share your expertise and insight-As a teacher, you have the benefit of knowing various ways to differentiate and improve the teaching experience. You also have the benefit of teaching a wide variety of abilities.  Share what you know and see so parents can extend the lesson at home.
  10. Prepare parents ahead of time for meetings–Most parents don’t know what to expect when they attend meetings. For many, it is an intimidating experience. Prepare them ahead of time by letting them know the time frame, who will be there, the content and the decisions that may be made at the meeting.  This will help parents not only be more comfortable but will give them some insight into what questions they might have.

Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section…

 

Related Posts

Three surprising things not to say to kids

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How many positive comments does it take?

Know someone who is starting kindergarten?

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten

Personality Style and Motivation

It’s a new school year and you have spent hours setting up your classroom, attending meetings on the latest and  greatest technology and getting your lesson plans in order. You are ready for the kiddos to arrive with parents in tow so you can orient everyone to your system and dive in to a new and exciting year of learning and teaching.

However, if you’ve been teaching any time at all you know that the best laid plans can go astray, especially if you have “one of those classrooms”.

You know what I mean.

One where you are pulling out your hair and wondering who on earth thought putting this combination of children together in one room was a good idea? Maybe you have children that are exceptionally talkative or headstrong.  Maybe they are needy and lack initiative. In any case, I bet you have at least one child in your classroom that really knows how to push your buttons… and not in a good way.

What if you understood their personality and their motivation so that you could work with them instead of against the resistance? Understanding the four basic personality styles can help.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

Understanding and speaking the same personality language is important. This is especially true if you want to help your students set goals that motivate them and have a successful school year. As a quick reminder, the four main personality types are:

D wired=dominant, decisive, determined, doer

I wired=interactive, inspiring, influential, initiator

S wired=stable, sweet, shy, likes status quo

C wired=conscientious, careful, cautious, careful

Personality Style and Motivation

If you have a D wired child in your classroom, then you will want to help them chose a goal that is very specific and has a deadline. D personalities are highly motivated and competitive, so setting a goal to give their energy some direction will be very successful.

I wired children are great starters but not such great finishers. They also thrive on social interaction and recognition, so setting a goal that involves a social network to support and encourage them to achieve it would be best. Add in an element of fun perhaps by making a lesson or project much like a game and the I wired child will be hooked.

S wired children are great finishers but have difficulty starting tasks. They are very tuned in to the needs of others and will work to accomplish a goal as much to please you as to please themselves. Select a goal that they can commit to with your support or the support of a partner to motivate them to get going.  They are great team players and can be a real asset to group  oriented learning.

Finally, C wired children love to develop and research a goal.They thrive on quality answers and good value.  If they are committed, they will work hard to accomplish the task. Help them see the big picture so that they don’t get lost in the details and you will have a winning combination.

Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important skill to learn and by speaking your student’s  personality language, you can not only insure that they are successful but you will motivate them in a way that is congruent with how they are wired.

Related Posts:

Celebrate your child’s personality style

10 things joyful teachers do differently

Tackling those back to school blues

Wyatt’s latest book!!

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

5 Ways to Create a Summer of Renewal

Does summer mean a time of renewal for you?

How do you make that happen?

Here’s how NOT to make it happen:  Dive into the weeks ahead with no plan except to fill every moment with enriching activities.  Schedule back to back camps or sports activities for the kids. Volunteer for every possible  need or request that comes your way.  After all, since you work with kids all year, you are the perfect fill in at vacation Bible school or scout camp. Plan exhausting family vacations and spend time on the road or jostling for  space in line at crowded theme or water parks.  Catch up on lots of classes and get the credits that you need…

I think you get the idea. If this is your plan (or lack of one) then you will return to school in the fall exhausted… and in need of a vacation.

How to Create an Oasis of Summer Renewal

  1. Take time to reflect and be aware:  What do you most need to feel refreshed and energized?  Relaxing time by the pool to catch up on your reading?  An exercise plan to get you back in the routine of regular exercise?  Quality family time to really connect and share? An educational class that will get you up-to-date and excited about new trends?
  2. Survey your family:  Rather than assume that the kids want to spend all summer at the pool or standing in line at the theme park, set up a family meeting to get everyone’s idea of a perfect summer.  You may be surprised at what is important to them.
  3. Set goals and create a plan:  Schedule events throughout the summer.  Create balance with family vacations and time for kids to explore and discover on  their own.  Studies show that creativity and critical thinking is enhanced with unscheduled  and unstructured time.  This is as important for you as it is for your children.
  4. Post a calendar and the plan: Keep everyone informed of the scheduled and unscheduled time and their responsibilities.  Re-frame “I’m bored” as a sign that a child needs to get creative and read, play a game or do something active outside. It’s not your responsibility to keep everyone entertained.
  5. Keep a gratitude journal:  Every evening review what family members are grateful for and either write it down, take a photo or draw a picture for your journal.  At the end of the summer you will have a great record of summer time memories!

Summer time can be a time to be renewed and energized or a time of exhaustion and over work.  The real key is to create a plan and follow through on it.  I wish you a summer that is an oasis  of renewal in the busyness of life.

Related Posts:

Creating Summertime Fun

Create Summertime Memories through Writing

3 Ways to Slay the Boredom Dragon

 

Wonder what Wyatt is doing this summer?  Visiting his grandparents at the beach… Check  out the Wyatt the Wonder Dog Book Series, children’s books with an empowering message.

wyatt2

Need some activities to keep the kiddos engaged with the lesson in the story?  I put everything together for you in one book!

Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.

 

                     

http://wyatthewonderdog.com/activitybook

 

The Benefits of Play

As chilly winter days transition into balmy spring time, children and adults both anticipate spending more time outdoors.  Unfortunately, the school environment doesn’t always cooperate with the onset of spring fever as students prepare for and take mandated tests or complete end of year projects.  Some classes forgo recess altogether in order to focus on academic excellence.  A nationwide study on how first through fifth grade children spend their time at school found that on a randomly selected day, 21% of children did not have any recess  at all.

What are the benefits of recess?  Here are a few:

  • Brain research show a relationship between physical activity and the development of brain connections.
  • Children who are active at school continue to be active at home.
  • Children develop social and behavioral skills as they learn to exercise leadership, negotiate, take turns and resolve conflicts.
  • Memory and attention are improved when learning is spaced out and recess provides a necessary break from academics.
  • Play for children is not just a social and physical outlet, it is a real learning activity.

How can adults encourage positive play? The best way is by setting the stage before hand.

  • Just as in the classroom, develop a specific set of rules for children to follow.  Encourage them to be a part of the process and then commit to following the rules.
  • Brainstorm games that encourage responsibility, cooperation, and communication. Make a list of the games to facilitate child choice.
  • Anticipate and discuss the most  common problems that are encountered on the playground:  not including everyone in a game, not encouraging others or putting someone down because of a lack of ability, not following the rules.
  • Develop a system for students to solve problems when they occur.  Practice with role-play how to handle disagreements.
  • Regularly review the process to see how it is working.

Related posts:

Children and Friendship Problems

Good or Bad Decision?

Teaching Kids How to Handle Emotion

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Why failing first leads to success.

He won’t do any work in class.

She never turns in homework.

She is capable, but doesn’t work up to her potential…

If you have been  an educator for any length of time, you’ve had a child like this in your classroom. You’ve tried every strategy that you can think of–nothing is working.

Maybe you are a parent with a child  like this right now and you are out of ideas…

What can you do?

One of the amazing things about children in particular but really all of us, is that the brain has an infinite capacity to change.  In the not too distant past, we used to think that once certain habits or behavior was established that people rarely changed.  We now know that the brain continues to develop well into the 20’s and that we can make major changes in everything from our outlook to the way that we function for our entire lives.  This is called brain  plasticity.

How do we make the most of this amazing human quality?  One of the ways is by encouraging children to develop a growth mindset that basically says, “Excellence is a process.  Failure is not the end of the road but instead it is how you learn.”

Here is a video that illustrates this well:

Knowing that how you handle mistakes, failure and losing is an important indicator of how successful you are, how can we best encourage students?

In their excellent book, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath, describe a study with students who were doing poorly in math.  They  were divided into two groups.  One group spent time in a a generic study skills class.  The other group spent time in a growth mindset class where they were taught that the mind is like a muscle.  The more you work it, the smarter you become. They were reminded of how they had learned non-academic skills like skateboarding and how everything is hard before you master it.

The results?  The study skills group continued to have declining grades.  However, the growth mindset group significantly outperformed the  other group.  They reversed the downward trend, some of them dramatically.  Teachers who were unaware of the group students  were assigned to, were asked to identify the students who had made the most positive gain.  Seventy-five percent of the students they identified were in the growth mindset group.

What is truly amazing about this study is that the students improved in math, a cumulative subject and they  were not taught anything specific  to math skills!  Think about this for a moment;  just learning that you have the ability to learn and excel despite failure, caused students to improve in a specific skill.

How can you apply this information to students that you know?

How does this apply outside of the academic environment?

Related Posts:

3 Ways to Teach You Child to be a Leader

What if you embrace the difficulty?

Focusing on Joyful Parenting

 

Stuff Parents Want to Know:  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

In twenty years of school counseling I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  This ebook is a compilation of some of the most common ones along with some effective strategies and books you can read with your child to address the problem. stuffparents   Click on the link below to purchase:

Stuff Parents Want to Know: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions