Category Archives: joyful teaching

4 ways to teach your best lessons

Take a trip back in time with me and visualize your most memorable teacher.  Maybe it was the one who inspired you to be an educator.  Maybe it was someone who encouraged you in a subject area that you were challenged in.  Maybe it was someone who recognized a gift that you had.  For me it was a teacher in middle school (I’ve long forgotten her name)  who encouraged me to write.  She taught English, always a favorite subject of mine anyway, but she assigned writing topics and through her comments helped me recognized a gift that I had.  At the time, my grandfather was writing a column for the local newspaper and I sent him some of the work I produced in that class, which he proudly published.

In this day of data and research driven lesson plans, it is sometimes  easy to lose the heart of teaching.  Even school counselors who deliver classroom lessons on character education and mindfulness often get lost in prescribed lessons and collecting data on behavior changes.  What can we do to create lessons that capture and inspire students?

Here are four teaching suggestions:

Get personal:  As a student don’t you remember how much you enjoyed those stories that teachers shared from their personal lives and experiences?  Sometimes it made the material come to life.  Sometimes it gave you insight into them as a real person with a family and outside interests.  Sometimes it helped you understand a mission or passion they had.  Keep the shared experiences relevant to the topic at hand but put some of yourself into the mix.

Get relevant:  Students are engaged when they see how the material relates to their lives.  I remember a teacher I was observing in a math class who was teaching problem-solving through word problems that she made up which were practical as well a  bit humorous.  I was so entertained that I had a hard a hard time remembering to observe the student I was there for.

Get inspirational:  Use your material to inspire students to change the world and to be the best they can be.  Every lesson no matter the topic has a personal application and a history.  Share your personal desire for a peaceful world, saving endangered species or finding a cure for cancer. Help students to visualize a future that is better because of their focus and effort.

Get innovative:  While it is easy to fall back year after year on the same tired lessons, challenge yourself to add something new and innovative each year.  Your dedication to being a lifelong learner yourself will transfer the same enthusiasm to your students.

Related Posts:

Use brain science to teach effectively

The growth mindset and success

7 secrets to positive teacher parent communication

 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

 

12 Grab N’ Go Lesson Plans for School Counselors

Use brain science to teach effectively

Back in the day when I was teaching lessons to children regularly as a school counselor, I was always trying to determine the best way to engage children in the lesson as well as make sure that they could actually learn and remember it later.  Lucky for educators and parents today, there is all kinds of brain research to show the way.  In her book, Wired to Grow: Harness the Power of the Brain Science to Master any Skill, Britt Andreatti identifies three steps to learning anything well.

  1. The first step is simply the process of listening and taking in the information.  Research has shown that the attention limit is about 15-20 minutes, so keep your presentation short.  So much for those long drawn out lectures we used to listen to in college.  We knew it wasn’t a good way to learn even then.
  2. The second step is getting the information into your long term memory.  There are specific ways to do this and they mostly involve practicing some sort of retrieval that involves participation.  Have students summarize information, take a quiz on it, play a game or use it in some way that involves remembering the essential facts. Three times of intermittent repetition is the sweet spot.
  3. Finally, the last step involves behavior change and in order to effect behavior change, you must practice for about 40-50 repetitions.  I know that sounds like a lot but if you think about it there are lots of things that we repeat numerous times in a given day.

Here’s what a typical lesson might look like:

Teach a lesson on being a good friend; you can include a story, examples of students practicing the qualities of friendship, a list of good qualities, etc.

Review the material.  Here are some ideas:

  • play a game
  • have students role-play ways to be a good friend
  • complete a worksheet
  • make a booklet
  • have students quiz each other on how to be a good friend.

Practice being a good friend throughout the day.  Point out each time you see students practicing friendly behaviors.  Try to catch students modeling the behaviors you are teaching.

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5 effective ways to teach kids in the digital age

the growth mindset and success

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Wyatt’s Leadership Series for Kids

While supplies last… a $120 value for $95

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt Learns about Giving 

And

7 Lesson Plans based on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People

And

A set of problem situation cards to develop critical thinking skills in difficult situations

Your investment: $95




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…

 

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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:

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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