Teaching since Fall 2001 – 3rd year in 2nd grade

Posts tagged ‘Tools For Teaching’

Branded Common Sense

A teacher writing on a blackboard.Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reading Tools For Teaching by Fred Jones and recording my thoughts here because this is the next big deal in my district. The other current big deal in my district is Capturing Kid’s Hearts and I have to go a session on that in August. When I look at, these programs I see common sense trademarked and copyrighted. My grandparents, parents, assorted aunts and uncles all could have told you the same information based on their common sense and having raised two generations of kids. There were two kids in my dad’s family and ten in my mother’s family. I have around 25 first Cousins and 40 or so second Cousins. Out of about 65 kids only one is if been in trouble with the law. Many went to university and on to professional careers, and many of the others own their own businesses. I figure my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, parents, and aunts and uncles did a pretty good job raising us.

They did not need to pay $29.95 U.S. to figure out that no should mean no, to mean that you say in say what you mean, that follow through is important, and finely that being consistent is good for kids. To them that was plain old fashion common sense. To impart these pearls of wisdom my district did pay $29.95 U.S. per teacher. Not to mention the cost of sending either two or three people from each campus to a special training so they can train us and common sense. Those costs are just for the Tools For Teaching training.

Most of my coworkers went on a retreat to learn Capturing Kids Hearts. Since then involved room and board, I’m sure it was quite expensive. I’m able to go to just a day course which is easier on me, because I don’t have to pay to board my dogs.

Lest you think I am against all staff development, I am looking forward to the A+ for Energy Educator Training Conference this weekend. This will give me an opportunity to learn from both experts and other teachers and find new ideas for our robotics program.

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Tools for Teaching Chapter 14: Staying Calm: Our Emotions

I’m unimpressed by this chapter. The basic points are

1. We get stressed

2. Teaching is stressful

3. When we are stressed, we react poorly to more stress even little things.

4. We need to manage our stress – but no practical methods for doing this.

Honestly – this whole book/program is common sense with branding – like the program before and the program we will adopt in a year or so when this doesn’t work. This along with convocation is one way our district does waste money.

Tools for Teachers Chapter 13 Study Questions

1) Schools produce the same number of office referrals year after year. What payoffs does Larry get for being suspended? Why doesn’t the School Discipline Code “put the lid on” as we would hope? (pages 140-143)

Larry gets a free day off from school, when he is suspended.

2) Why must a teacher embody these rules if they expect to “mean business?” • No means no. • I am not going to stand here and listen to your yammering.

If an adult changes their mind after being pestered by a student for a period of time, the student learns if I pester I get my way.

3) What is funny about someone saying that they are “pretty consistent?” (pages 144-147)

Either you are consistent or you are inconsistent.

4) How do “Weenie” parents build brat behavior? (pages 147-148)

Poor parents build brat behavior by either giving in and being inconsistent with discipline or actively encouraging their children to behave poorly by consistently blaming the people in authority for their child’s poor behavior.

Tools For Teaching Chapter 13 –Understanding Brat Behavior

This chapter repeats many things we already know. Basically if you tell a child no, allow them to whine long enough and then give in to what they want you have taught them lying and get what you want. He also says that sending students out of the room in writing them up diminishes the teacher’s power and role in the classroom. While I agree with him, and it right to express is two mighty work raids on numerous occasions, he doesn’t give an alternative. Also what about those situations where the student is a danger to himself, other students, and teachers, what are we supposed to do with those students. We have one fifth grade student from last year who is well on his way to committing suicide by cop.

The student would constantly be physically aggressive with much bigger students and teachers. I had to say he never did it to me, maybe because I’ve already had students arrested for similar behaviors. Also what about the student his parents are completely inconsistent with giving him his medications. I’m not talking about a parent who objects to having their child medicated, that is a different situation. I’m talking bad how that spends a couple days on the medication for various mental disorders, and then when their behavior calms down the parent takes them all off the medication. This is extremely dangerous for the student and can lead to suicidal thoughts, but it also creates a huge roller-coaster ride for everyone in the same classroom. Says the child’s brain doesn’t have time to acclimate to being on the medication are being off the medication, he often truly has no control over his behavior.

Tools for Teaching Chapter 10 Providing Accountability

“Excellence is not an add-on” space (page 123 Tools For Teaching by Fred Jones) I think our campus is doing an excellent job with a type of accountability that the author is talking about here. We’re not waiting till a few weeks before the TAKS test or even second semester to start taking care of academic problems. We’re also not waiting till third grade. With the PEP program, teachers are constantly evaluating students, and those with difficulties are being brought to the attention of the administration. One on one or small group to during is being made available to these children with the hope of getting them caught up to their grade level and then maintaining grade level mastery of concepts.

I agree going over papers item by item in class can be very boring, but sometimes you need to go over the work on a test for example. I know that when I did this I would pinpoint the problems that most students missed and go over those. The phrase complexities slows you down also troubles me. The author seems to be advocating lower level Bloom’s Taxonomy questions that can be easily checked by a teacher moving to the room. This is contrary to the high expectations high level questions mantra that has been the rule in the past few years. Students only exposed to low level questions are not learning and will soon be bored.

I do not think that group competition would be good on our campus. Having students grade each other’s work might be a violation of privacy laws. Also on our campus I can see this type of competition leading to bullying behavior and cheating. I think the individual rewards that our campus has been using with the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are better incentives. It can be tailored to students of different levels, and allows us to set individual goals for students. It also does not subject students to bullying.

Tools For Teacher Chapter 9 Creating Motivation Thoughts

student who has been allowed to substitute television and video games for reading may show a short attention span and little interest in classroom task. However, you will not have influence over the child’s access to video. Page 104 Tools for Teaching second edition by Fred Jones

According to the book study we did at the district level “Leave me alone mom, I am learning ” this may not be entirely correct. Many video games today have very in depth storytelling. The players actions but in the story can affect the outcome of the story. By changing the ways a student responds to information, a teacher can see an increase in attention spans. I agree with Leo Laporte as simply reading information is no longer good enough for me. I want to tag, bookmark, share, in rework information in addition to reading it. For example this book, I’ve had a very boring to try to read it as my summer reading until I started liking about it and sharing ideas. I think blaming TV and video games and the Internet and everything else is a crutch that educators use instead of being the lifelong learners we claim we want students to be.

The problem with these traditional and rather “seat of the pants” incentive systems was that the same seven or eight kids always got to paint the murals and work on the science projects. They were the “smarties” who finished early. Everyone else work till the bell rang. (page 109 Tools For Teaching Second Edition by Fred Jones)

I agree with this statement. It is not only the smart kids. I remember my third grade teacher using SRA as an incentive. Even though I was very bright I had trouble finishing my work, because I had a undiagnosed vision problem an undiagnosed learning disability. Though the learning disability was probably less of an issue because she’s so one that triggered it, by forcing me to use my nondominant hand. I distinctly remember the day midway through the school year, when she made fun of me for still being in the red the section. Well I could not finish my work early, because I could not see the floor to copy down the problems. No matter what incentive program we use we need to be aware that students not finishing work may have a medical cause that we are not qualified to diagnose or treat.

I like the idea of students being able to move to their projects after correctly completing five math problems in a row. For most students, this would increase both speed and accuracy. It would only work in situations where the concept being taught was right or wrong and easily checked.

We sometimes build and incentives for students to dawdle. My first year teaching, we were given TAKS practice tests to administer each week. They started out short, maybe 10 math problems or one reading passage with questions. The kicker was we had to give them as much time as it took to complete the test. The kids knew this. With the class I had a normal math test of 10 – 15 problems might take 30 or 45 minutes. With these TAKS a practice test, the kids would take from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM. Just before lunch like a miracle everyone finished. After lunch they had recess, specials, 15 minutes “class time”, and then dismissal. Throughout the year as the test got longer they consistently finished at 1130 AM. They knew exactly what they were doing. Because of this policy, I only could teach four days a week.

I like the idea of a preferred activity for a day to day keeping everyone on task method of managing the class. I hope our teachers and administrators keep the incentive program that he had for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades last year. Students could earn privileges like eating lunch with a friend, eating lunch with the principal, worrying an mp 3 player to school for use during independent work, and no uniform days. Students who earned scores above a certain level were given these privileges. Students who started out with scores significantly below this level but it also earn these privileges by improving their scores by over previous scores. This way students who started out failing had stepping stones to get to that passing level.


Still reading chapter 8 of Tools for Teaching. I agree with what he is saying about homework – it should reinforce already mastered skills or involve studying. I also think it should be brief. I remember arguing with my math teacher in high school. I think it was Trig/EA. My argument was doing the same problem 20 times wasn’t going to help me learn. If I knew how to do the problems, I didn’t need 20 more times to practice. If I didn’t know how to do the problems doing them wrong 20 times was usless.

When I taught math, the homework I assigned was 10 problems and from material they should have already mastered. It took lots of my time to write the problems. One thing I did was even before I gave the pre-test – I would write problems on the 4th grade concepts that students needed to know to do the 5th grade concept we were about to start. That provided me with some excellent information about what they had mastered and were the holes were.

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