Faithful Blogger

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Prayerful Teaching is Correction with Dignity

 But there is a spirit in man,
And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.

                Job 32:8 (NKJV)

Prayer and Meditation:

As a first step in establishing a positive learning experience in my classroom, my students need to feel safe and secure enough to expand their thinking, stretch their minds, and take consequence-free risks. I want the shy, the unsure, the easily intimidated, and the insecure to be full participants in the classroom community.  May I never criticize “wrong” answers or lack patience. Instead may I use “wrong” answers to lead my students to wisdom and understanding.  I pray that all of my students feel the spirit of God breathing upon them and within them as they learn. 

Give all Answers Value

Most likely, if one student gives a wrong answer, other students are thinking the same thing. Wrong answers give insight into how the class is thinking.  They lead to the right answer and clear up fuzzy thinking, or wrong ideas.

Keep track of who participates in answering questions, regardless if the answer is “right” or “wrong.”  Make a copy of your seating chart and solicit a student volunteer to keep track of who answers questions by putting a check mark by the student’s name.  Celebrate whomever has the most checks.  This is also a way teachers can keep track of who is answering questions and make sure the shy child in back of the classroom is also a participant.  If a student complains that he “never” gets called on to answer questions, a simple look at the seating chart will prove or disprove his complaint. 

Include Shy Students

Most students probably will not be embarrassed if they give the wrong answer, but know each student and understand how that student might feel if a wrong answer is given publicly.  It is most important that those students adverse to risk taking, those students who are shy, and those students who find it difficult to speak in public discover that the classroom is a safe place for participation.

Avoid Embarrassment

Avoid embarrassment and allow students to save face.  Students will shut down if they think they might embarrass themselves or show their short-coming to their peers.  Some phrases to use are given below:
  • Avoid humor or making a joke out of the wrong answer.  
  • Making a “fuss” about the wrong answer will just draw attention to it.  Be short and to the point if wrong answers are given publically. 
  • I can see why you might think that.
  • We have something in common.   I remember thinking the same thing when I was learning about ….! 
  • I am glad you said that because I think a lot of others might be thinking the same thing.  This way we can clear it up right now.  Thank you for reminding me to clarify the point. Or, I was just thinking we need to clarify that point.

Probe Further to Understand the Student’s Thinking

Sample probing questions are listed below:

  • Interesting.  How did you come to that conclusion?
  • Almost.  Let’s try looking at the problem in another way.  (Then take students through a series of questions to arrive at the correct answer.)
  • Thank you.  You are helping us get there. 
  • Can you give an example?  (Use this if you think a student might know the answer, but is just not communicating it correctly.)
  • “Thanks for starting/continuing the discussion, or You really are getting us thinking! Can anyone else add anything or give another viewpoint? (Be sure that in the end, the class understands the “real” right answer.)
  • If part of the answer is correct state, “You are right about…, but let’s rethink ….  Once we rethink …, we will all have a perfect understanding of….”

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prayerful Teaching is Dispensing Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Prayer and Reflection

Even before I meet my students, I know many of then will have a feeling of hopelessness.  Since children who have hope have a much better future than those without hope, help me bring hope, joy and peace into my classroom and into the lives of my students.  Let me guide them on the pathway to hope and accomplishment.  Let me accept and appreciate them for who they are, not for who I think they should be.  Teach me to love them as God loves me. 

Prayerful Teaching in Action

  • Arrive at a common meaning or definition for hope.  The meaning of hope will vary for each grade level and even within different classrooms at the same grade level.  Conduct a rich discussion on the meaning of hope. Depending on the grade level, consider the following discussion points:
    • Share your own hopes for the school year and your hopes for your students.  Post this in a place for all to see.
    • Elicit real examples of hope from students.  Most likely they will start off with statements such as “I hope I get all A’s,” or “I hope I don’t have to work too hard this year.”
    • Discuss the difference between a wish and a hope.
    • Introduce goal setting and how goal setting turns hope into reality.  Include all students in the discussion, even those who do not raise their hands.

  • Help students set long term and short term goals.  Make sure the goals set have a reasonable chance of being met.  On the other hand, goals should not be so easy to meet that little or no effort is needed to meet the goal.  One student’s goal may be to finish the math assignment.  Another student’s goal may be to achieve a score of at least 95% on an upcoming social studies test.  Develop an action plan with each student to serve as a road map to get to the goal.  Break the goals into smaller steps.  Recognize the goals and celebrate the goals when they are met. 

  • Impart hope to those who need it the most.  Identify two or three students you feel are struggling with school.  Make it a point to give them reason to hope.  This can be as simple as saying, “Good to see you today,” or “I’m glad to see you put your book in your backpack so you can complete your homework.”  Maybe you could ask them to take a leadership position in class or attend to an important classroom task.  This will allow them to realize they have value and are an important member of the class.

  • Students need to be given work that is just difficult enough to challenge them and move them upwards in the learning continuum, but not so difficult that it will lead to frustration and certain failure.  Not all students need to do the same work; however, all students need to be challenged.  Work can be modified to challenge the most advanced learner, yet allow struggling students to find success.  You may even want to “cue” a struggling student that she will be the first to be called upon when Question 2 of the science homework is discussed. 

  • Celebrate success every day in many ways.  A sure way to instill hope in students is to publicly recognize accomplishments.  
    • Be free with earned compliments.  Give public compliments.
    • Acknowledge students for trying or contributing to class discussion.  If a student gives a wrong answer, don’t just dismiss it, but thank the student for the contribution.  Say something like, “That’s not quite right, but I can tell you are thinking.  Keep it up!” or “Thank you.  You are getting there and you certainly are giving us something to build upon.  
    • Post student work around the room.  Write a short comment explaining why it was chosen for posting.  Avoid phrases such as “Good job” or “Good work.  Instead be specific.  “I like the way you used the word ____.”  “Your answer to question 3 shows you know your material.”

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Prayerful Teaching—The First Welcome

 Whoever receives one little child like this
    in My name receives Me.

                                                Matthew 18:5 (NKJV)

Prayer and Meditation

For the first time I look into the faces of the students whom God has entrusted to me.  Some are fresh faced and beaming, obviously eager to experience new learning opportunities.  Some have the look of confusion and maybe even a hint of defiance.   All are God’s children and all are valued and loved equally by their Creator.  I will eradicate any preconceived notions I have about my students, even those I have been “warned about” by colleagues.  As I stand by the classroom door and greet each child individually with a warm smile and a welcoming attitude, I am determined to set a positive tone for the school year.  Over each child I silently pray, “Lord, teach me to receive this child in your name.”

Prayerful Teaching in Action

  • Set a welcoming tone beginning with the first minutes, the first hours, the first day.  Greet students and parents at the door with a pleasant voice and genuine smile.  Hold a short conversation with each child or group of children as they arrive at the classroom door.  Use high fives, thumbs up, or fist bumps if appropriate.  If parents want to engage in long conversations, offer to call them later in the day.  This time belongs to the students with whom you will share most of your waking hours.

  •  Prepare what you plan to say to your students the first time you address them as a group. Rehearse it. Some of first questions students have are, “Who is my teacher?  Will my teacher be mean?  Will learning be boring?  Will I pass?”  First impressions are lasting impressions.  The emphasis during this first address is on making everyone feel wanted, welcome, and comfortable.  Forcing students to listen to a long list of procedures, rules and expectations is not a viable option.  These items should be introduced in a natural order with opportunity for immediate practice beginning with Day One.  (See August 10th blog on Determining Procedures.

  •  Launch social comfort.  Each classroom, from preschool through high school is a miniature society.   Students need to be comfortable and relaxed.  They need a warm atmosphere in which to learn.  It would be unusual if all students knew each other on the first day.  An icebreaking activity might be in order.  Take part in the activity rather than take on the role of a passive bystander. 

  •  Show your pride in your students’ success through posting student work in the classroom in a prominent place.  Select a learning standard on the first day of class.  Plan an activity which will generate student artifacts you can post the next day.  During the second day, continue building on the standard with the use of the newly posted artifacts.  This will allow students to know they are an important part of the learning process and are respected as learners.

  •  Commit to making positive comments.  Correct negative behavior through redirection, eye contact (continue what you are doing, walk up to student, make eye contact, when behavior changes, smile, and nod a thank you, all without disrupting the teaching/learning stream), or giving the student an immediate responsibility.   Embarrassing a student in front of her peers will only result in her turning the tables and embarrassing you in front of her peers.  Provide students who need to be redirected with an opportunity for success and use praise when the task is completed.  You may need to speak to some students individually, away from others, before the end of the day.

  • Watch out for unintentional negative signals such as crossing your arms when interacting with students, allowing hints of anger or disappointment slip into the tone of your voice, or expressing disgust or impatience through facial expressions.  Research has shown that nonverbal communication in the classroom is more powerful than verbal communication.  The same is true for students.  Observe students’ unspoken signals to you.

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Prayerful Teaching is Initiating Procedures

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens.

          Psalm 68:19 (NIV)

Prayer and Meditation

Even though this is not my first year of teaching, I feel as vulnerable and frightened as my first day student teaching.  I know the first few days, even the first few hours will make or break the school year. I worry about my failure to honor my calling as teacher and to determine the procedures necessary to make my classroom a place for joyful learning.  As I surrender my concerns, my uncertainties, and my frailties at the feet of my Father, I trust Him to guide me through those first days with the children whom he has entrusted to me. 

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Reduce discipline problems by implementing procedures.  Procedures are how things are accomplished in a classroom such as turning in papers. Do monitors pick up papers in an orderly fashion?  Do students randomly pass them forward?  

  • Every classroom action needs a procedure. Procedures are a major part of classroom management.  Without classroom management in place, confusion will reign, classroom disruptions will be the norm, and learning cannot occur.  The result will be a frustrated teacher, out-of-control students, and a chaotic classroom.

  • Model, model, and model again and then model some more.  You are front-loading to prevent future problems.  Students whom you expect will have trouble following the procedure are the best modelers.  Students, even upper grade level students, will not “get it” if you tell them once, twice, or even three times and expect them to remember procedures.  They need to see the procedure in action and be part of the action. 

  • Clarify student expectations through procedures.  Procedures are positive statements of classroom actions which concentrate on the “Do” instead of the “Do not.”  Some examples are as follows:
    • Quieting down a class by playing transition music, giving a hand signal, or ringing a bell.  The “teacher look” and proximity to students is of utmost importance at this point.
    • The morning or class start routine.  (Do you have a place where you consistently post starters for students to complete while you take attendance, collect absence excuses, and attend to early morning paperwork which cannot be completed until students are present, or is this a “free for all” time?)  Students should be able to get themselves started with little or no help from the teacher.  The starters should be relevant to the learning that will take place in the classroom that day.  They can act as formative assessments  Starters are never busy work or time fillers.
    • Quick and efficient return of papers.  Nothing wastes time or encourages needless commotion like calling out the name of each student as papers are returned. 

Challenge of the Week:

Consider three obstacles that prevented your classroom from running as smoothly as you would have wished it to run.   Determine what procedures might be able to assist you in overcoming these obstacles.  How will you introduce these procedures and support them throughout the school year?

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink