Friday, December 31, 2010

Prezi on William Glasser's Basic Needs.

This is an updated Prezi presentation of William Glasser's Basic Needs.  I wanted to do an updated version with a Northern theme. If you want to read how I meet the needs of students in the classroom, please see an earlier post here. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Retention: The obvious answer or more harm than good?

The topic of retention or "failing" in the early grades is much debated. It is easy to say that one should be held back a grade if they do not acquire the necessary skills to move to the next.  However, on further analysis this may not be the best decision for the student.

In Alfie Kohn's book, The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards,” Kohn notes, "Students who have to repeat a grade are much more likely to drop out of school years later than if they hadn't been held back."

Moreover, Kohn states that the most comprehensive review of the available evidence shows that, “At risk students who are promoted achieve at the same or higher levels than comparable at-risk students who have been retained and...effects measured long term [are] more strongly negative than those measured short term.”

Further, Kohn points out that advocates of retention may “acknowledge some potential harm to a child's self-esteem but hold that achievement gains are more important than this potential risk.” But, "the data suggest that retention is even more harmful to achievement than it is to a student's self-concept or attitude towards school."

Kohn says this does not mean you promote and forget about the problems of the student. If a student needs help then they should get it: “Special arrangements for tutoring make sense and may turn out to be less expensive than having a child repeat a grade. Better yet, teachers ought to work together, and with parents, to consider how they've been teaching.” Moreover, Kohn states that the opposite of retention is not social promotion, “but the willingness to look at deficiencies in the instruction instead of just the learner.”

Alfie Kohn's findings seem to dispel the advantages of the practice of retention. In fact, his findings state that it does more harm than good. I would love to hear what you have to say.

How are you effecting change?

Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about education reform. I have followed and participated in conversations about this "big picture" item.  Many teachers have felt helpless in the battle of education reform. Indeed, it can be frustrating to feel like a cog, to use a Seth Godin term.

It's easy to get bogged down in "big picture items." However, what about if you looked at the other side: the small picture. The small picture means doing something today to effect change;  Doing something in your own classroom today to effect change; Sharing an idea with a colleague today to effect change; Writing a blog today to effect change; Sharing a resource on Twitter today to effect change.

It is easy to feel helpless when looking at the big picture. However, don't forget the small picture. It could be the change we have been looking for.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I don’t follow people that protect their tweets.

I don’t follow people who protect their tweets. If I do then it’s a mistake.  I just don’t see the point in protecting tweets. Why would you want to? The best way to utilize the power of twitter is to be open. That is how you meet people here. That is how you meet outstanding educators here. That is how you learn through Twitter. That is how you become a better educator.
 If you protect tweets then you are closing yourself off from the power of Twitter. You are closing yourself off from meeting outstanding educators. You are taking the safe road and refusing to grow. Worse, you are making it harder for people to discover who you are. Why are you afraid?  Am I missing something?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Your Use of Twitter: Are you just making a lot of noise?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my use of Twitter. I think about the things that I tweet, resources I share and receive, and discussions I have had. My question is this:  When I tweet about things like better ways to use technology in class, or better ways to engage students, am I just making noise? Or am I using those things in the class to become a better teacher for my students?

It becomes overwhelming at times the amount of information that can be found on Twitter. It is easy to tweet and forget. It is easy to share a link and not look at it again. It is easy to have a worthwhile conversation about education and not use what you learned it in your classroom. It is easy.

Is it easy for you? How do you use Twitter? Are you using Twitter to become a better teacher? Or are you just making a lot of  noise?

Monday, December 13, 2010

I challenge you to question a class rule.

If you have class rules, I challenge you tomorrow to look at those rules. I challenge you to question one of them. Ask yourself, “what is the purpose of this rule?” Involve your students, too. Ask them the same question. If you cannot come up with a valid reason for the rule, get rid of it. See how it impacts the class. Try it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How do you "control" your students?

My last post referenced Diane Gossen's pamphlet "5 positions of Control."  Gossen notes there are 5 methods people attempt to control each other. Do any of these methods look familiar in your teaching practices. Which one do you use most? Are you being the teacher you want to be?

In no particular order:

1. Punisher: This person may use anger (shouting) , criticism, humiliation, or corporal punishment. Ex. Adult says, "Do this or else!"

2. Guilter: This person uses silence, withdrawal of approval, or guilting remarks. Adult says. "You should have known better."

3. Buddy:  Adult says, "Do it for me."

4. Monitor: This person uses stimulus-response discipline meting out consequences, positive and negative. The person disciplined does learn by the approach. He/she learns that society does have rules and limits. Eventually the recipient will find ways to get around the system or will decide to be unreceptive to the rewards or consequences. Monitor says, "You have earned 10 check marks," or "You have lost 15 minutes of free time."

5. Manager: This person knows how to do everything the monitor does and will use that approach as a fall back position.  However, the recipient of this approach is asked to work to figure out a solution. The emphasis is not on designing a consequence.  The manager says, "What's your plan to fix it. When can you have it done?" The recipient is also asked to think about the kind of person they want to be. More manager questions include, "What do we believe? Do you believe it? If you believe it, do you want to fix it? If you do, then what does that say about you?" Every time one fixes a problem and ties it to the person one wants to be, there is less chance the person will reoffend.  This approach is the Restitution approach.

It should be noted that the first 4 approaches to control are based on extrinsic motivation. The last one, manager, is an intrinsic approach because the person is motivated to fix his or her problems to become the person they want to be.

For further reading check out the Restitution website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Education and The Far Side

This week I found a humorous Far Side comic on Google and posted it on Twitter. Today, I was reading a pamphlet by Diane Gossen called 5 Positions of Control and thought of how the comic could be linked to education. Let me explain.

Gossen notes that if we do not work with students so that they are able to fix their own problems, "when they leave school they may not be capable of making decisions when no one is telling them what to do." Indeed, asking them to conform without thinking for themselves will affect the rest of their lives and not in a good way.

Here is the comic. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Inspiring Ideas Videos

I just made a Prezi to keep some of my "Inspiring Ideas" videos in one place. People featured are Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson and Yong Zhao. No doubt I will be adding to the list. I just wanted to share this list with those that might be interested. I hope you find it useful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Power of Twitter: My geographic location did not stop me from meeting these Tweeters!

As some of you may know, I live in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. If you do not know where that is, you can get a geographic idea here. As you can see, I am geographically isolated. I live in a fly in community and have lived in Nunavut for the past 12 years. However, despite my isolation, I was able to connect with great educators when I discovered Twitter.

I have used Twitter since the fall of 2008. Actually I joined in the fall of '08 but did not really start tweeting until early in 2009. That is a common experience with Twitter users. People join and then go away for a few months, try it again and then, Bam!, a light goes on in their heads and they "get it." They say,  "Ahh, this is how I can use this."

I had my "get it" moment around February of '09. I discovered that despite the fact that I live in Northern Canada, I could connect with educators all over the world. Indeed, no matter where you live Twitter gives you the opportunity to connect with people that you never would have met otherwise.

Through the power of Twitter I have been able to meet some intelligent, kind, and caring educators. I would like to introduce you to a few people that I met over the past 2 years on Twitter that are definitely worth the follow.

In no particular order:

Tom Whitby: @tomwhitby Tom is an Adjunct Professor of Education at St Joseph’s College in New York. He is also the creator of the Educator's PLN site. Tom's tweets are thought provoking and he taught me that it is not how much you tweet, but the value of your tweet.

Shelly S.Terrell @ShellTerrell Currently, Shelly is teaching English to children, teens, and adult students in Germany and works as an online technology and English instructor. She also writes the  influential blog Teacher Reboot Camp. Shelly's tweets are always informative and she is generous with her response to you even though she has 9,300 followers.  Moreover, she is a very positive person.

 Larry Ferlazzo @Larryferlazzo Larry teaches Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced English Language Learners (as well as native English speakers) at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. Larry is the most prolific tweeter in my PLN. His tweets are loaded with resources. I retweet Larry often and have learned a lot from him.

Joe Bower @joe_bower Joe is a teacher in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada who wishes to challenge 'traditional' schooling while exploring more progressive forms of education. Joe is a "no holds barred" blogger and tweeter. He tells you exactly what and why he thinks the way he does. I share a lot of the same philosophies (homework) as Joe. He also reads and writes about authors such as  Alfie Kohn, Daniel Pink, and Seth Godin.

George Couros @gcouros    George is a K-12 Principal in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, who wants to help and inspire others to find their passion. His blog, The Principle of Change, is a favorite of mine because he writes a lot about caring and  helping children in his school. His tweets are always thought provoking. 

Chris Wejr @mrwejr  Chris works as a school principal at Kent Elementary School in Agassiz, B.C., Canada. One of his passions is discussing the future of education. Chris tweets about educational philosophy and shares many resources. He is currently implementing something called FedEx days with three of his teachers. I am fascinated with this idea and look forward to hearing about its success . We share many philosophies on homework and awards ceremonies, amongst other things. 

So, there you have it. Please check out the above educators and don't let your geographic location limit your connections.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Be Good in Class or You're Kicked off the Soccer Team!

 Recently I read about a teacher that is linking class behavior (including bad work ethic) of her soccer players, a school team, with the opportunity to be on the team.  She told other teachers in the school the following, "If your student plays on my team and they are misbehaving in class, I will remove that student from the team."  The players were told, "If I get a  report from your teachers about bad behavior, you will be removed from  the team." In sum, a player's behavior in school is directly linked to his/her right to be on the team.
After reading the article and thinking about this proposition, I submit there are many things wrong with this. Here are a few questions and thoughts:

Soccer is being used as a reward and punishment- if behavior in class is good you are on the team, if it is bad, you are off.  Why the manipulation?  What is going on in class if a student is misbehaving?  Is the student  bored?  Why are students being bribed by soccer to behave? Is the school work not worth doing?  Is this bribery affecting his or her desire to learn?  Alfie Kohn notes, "Both rewards and punishments are ways of manipulating behavior that destroy the potential for real learning."

also think of the coach.  Why is the coach using her soccer team as a way of disciplining students for other teachers? Those teachers should be building better relationships with his/her students, not getting the coach to "discipline" his/her students.  And if the coach has to kick a player off the team, does it not damage the relationship that the coach has with that child?

I believe that sports should be unto itself. The teacher that is having problems with a student in class should work with that student to find the problem, not use something that the student loves to do and take it from them. Indeed, as Alfie Kohn noted, "Punishment by any name, even consequences, ruptures the safe and caring alliance that must be nourished between teacher and student."

Check out what Alfie Kohn has to say about punishment:


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Motivational and Inspirational

I really enjoy watching inspirational and motivational sports videos and commercials.  I have compiled a few of my favorites here in this Prezi. I hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

That's 5 Minutes for Fun.

A little humor in class can go a long way with students. Sometimes I like to take the last 5 minutes of class and do something unrelated to the day's topic. Why? Just to change it up a little and have a little more fun.

Here are a few funny signs that I downloaded from Google and shared with my class. Sometimes you can have some very funny discussions. These discussions are also good for second language learners. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finding His Element: Sidney Crosby

Sir Ken Robinson calls the element "the point at which natural talent meets personal passion." Sidney Crosby, NHL superstar for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, would be an example of how someone found "their element." Earlier this year Crosby appeared in a Tim Horton's commercial where he talked about doing something you love. In Crosby's case, that love was hockey and he was good at it. Check out the commercial:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Another Intrinsic Killer: Awards Ceremonies

Over the past year and a half I have changed my opinion about award ceremonies for students. It was a great shift for me. My new thoughts on award ceremonies has lead to many debates with other educators as well as friends. I submit that award ceremonies do far more harm than good because they do not provide the best conditions for a learning environment. Moreover, trying to bribe students with extrinsic motivators like awards damages intrinsic motivation.

Below I provide some of the reasons others believe awards are good and my rebuttal. I also provide some reasons why they are bad. Moreover, I include some excellent quotes from other blog posts which have inspired me to write this one and some links of my favorite posts on the subject.

1. Students need a role model to look to:
Students will not see somebody that beats them for an award as a role model. They will see them as competition and somebody they have to beat in the future. Role models do not need to be given an award to be looked upon as a role model.

2. Awards are the real world:
I am not sure where one would get the idea that there are a lot of awards in a person’s day to day life. We do not have a teacher of the year award in our school or district, so why should we have such awards for students? Moreover, the awards that are given out in the adult world, many would argue,are based on politics, not merit. I am not trying to take anything away from any adult that deserved an award here, just pointing out that many awards are given based on who you know.

3. Giving everyone an award cheapens awards:
This comment is irrelevant if awards are eliminated. I like the term recognition instead of awards. As teachers we want each and every student to improve in his/her learning. Recognizing each student’s growth makes more sense to me than choosing just one and isolating the rest.

Teachers are supposed to help each student grow and learn. They should not choose one over another, but create the conditions that help each child flourish in his/her class. How can one create those conditions if some students are given awards over another? This is not inclusion. It takes a paradigm shift to get away from awards. Why would we isolate many for the sake of a few?

The main goal in my class is learning. Classrooms set up based on the goal of competing for an award (and rewards) hurt learning. As Alfie Kohn notes in his article, Is Competition Ever Appropriate in a Cooperative Classroom?:

“Competing reduces the probability that cooperation, which does promote learning, will take place; it generates anxiety; it leads children to attribute their victory or loss to factors beyond their control, such as innate ability or luck, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will try harder next time; and it functions as an extrinsic motivator, reducing interest in the task and creative performance just as other artificial inducements have been repeatedly shown to do.

Further, Kohn says,“Researchers have found that competitive structures reduce generosity, empathy, sensitivity to others' needs, accuracy of communication, and trust.”

By no means is my list exhaustive of the reasons why awards cause harm and hurt learning. I do hope that others who feel awards are a positive thing reflect on the practice of awards.

To end this post I would like to share a few quotes and links from some of my Twitter friends who have written about this topic:

“So my question is: why are we still having huge ceremonies that award a select few and fail to recognize so many strengths, talents, and interest of our students?” Chris Wejr

“Awards eventually lose their luster to students that get them, while often hurting the self-esteem and pride of those who don’t.” George Couros

"School as family:
I have shown my belief that we want to create a family environment in our school. I do not have my own kids, but I do not remember my mom and dad annually or semi-annually recognizing our achievements as their children (it would be so easy to make a brother joke here but I am going to refrain). As parents, it is important to let your kids know when you are seeing good things from your kids, WHEN you are seeing them. I also do not remember my mom and dad sorting us by who did what better in our family. We each had our own unique gifts as kids in my family, and we were recognized for that. Should it not be the same in a school? Does the term “caring and safe” match with “ranking and sorting”? Awards definitely lend to the latter and do nothing to create that caring and safe environment." George Couros

"Some of the most thankful parents are those who have children who would never be invited to be recognized by their school's honor ceremonies." Joe Bower

Recognizing the Valedictorian in All by Principal Eric Sheninger

A New Era of Ceremonies by Chris Wejr

Death of an Awards Ceremony by Chris Wejr

Shared Decisions and Abolishing Awards by Chris Wejr

The Impact of Awards by George Couros

Unconditional Recognition by Joe Bower

The Problem with Award Ceremonies by David Wees

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seth Godin and the The Lizard Brain

One of my favorite authors is Seth Godin. I tweet a lot of links to his blog.  I specifically like his postings about The Lizard Brain. The Lizard Brain is the "resistance" in our head that tries to stop us from carrying out an idea.  The resistance tries to stop us from carrying out an idea because the resistance tells us people will laugh at us. Godin says we must fight the resistance, quiet the resistance, and indeed, carry out that idea. How can this information help us in the education field? In the following video, Godin discusses the Lizard Brain.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Motivational Resources

Last week I was talking to a first year teacher in my community. He was saying how overwhelmed he felt being a first year teacher. Being a rookie, he was overwhelmed by classroom management issues, curriculum, how to best communicate with parents, a new culture (He is from Southern Canada) and new students, just to name a few. I tried to help him out a little by making a few suggestions.

The more I talked the more I was saying, "I will send you a link for this, a link for that." The links were flowing out of my mouth so fast that he, again, seemed a little overwhelmed. I was doing more damage than good. So, I decided to start a motivational page on my website where he could get a feeling of the things and philosophies I was talking about. By no means is the list extensive. It is just a few resources to share those philosophies. If you would like to see the page please follow this link to my class website by clicking on Boomer the Dog. (Boomer is owned by a Student Support Assistant at our school)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Basic Needs

Here is my first Prezi. During an earlier blog post I wrote about Meeting the Needs of Students based on William Glasser's Choice Theory. I decided to further explain the needs using a Prezi.

I would like to thank Diane Gossen and Joel Shimoji for teaching me about Glasser's Choice Theory. It is my hope that a better understanding of human needs will allow me to create the learning environment my students deserve.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where are all the great educational video games?

I just read this headline and could not believe my eyes: "‘Halo: Reach’ sales hit $200-million on 1st day." Could this be real? The amount of money spent on this newest Halo game is staggering. And $200 million on day one? Staggering.

This got me thinking. Why the big sales? Easily, one can state that the fun need is being met. However, people are also meeting their need for freedom, success and belonging. Freedom? Freedom from their regular routine and freedom to choose to play. Success? Being good at the game. Belonging? Playing with friends, thus being a part of a group.

Indeed, video games can meet needs of people but I have one question- Where are all the great educational video games? If a lot students have an amazing capacity to play video games, why are great educational video games not being produced? It could be an amazing way to engage students in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Michael Jordan Inspirational Videos

I would like to share a few inspirational Michael Jordan commercials with you.The themes deal with hard work, not giving up when you fail, and realizing your potential. Enjoy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Second Interventions

Sometimes students need respectful reminders to get back on task, begin a task, or a reminder of a school rule. The last thing you want to do is to get into a confrontation with a student. Friendly reminders may save you from a confrontation with a student, saving you and the student a potentially embarrassing situation.

Joel Shimoji, in his book Restitution Field Guide (based on the work of Diane Gossen), calls the respectful reminders "30 second interventions." They are "fast and polite reminders designed to respectfully get people back on track." Shimoji also notes that the way you communicate your message is important. Ten percent of the message is conveyed through words; 35% is conveyed through tone of voice; and 55% is from body language. That means 90% of your message is non-verbal.

Shimoji says if students need friendly reminders, the following things can help:

A. 30 second intervention (Assistance)
1. "When will you be ready to start?"
2. "Do you need some help?"
3. "Can I help you get started?"

B. 30 second intervention (Directive)
1. "What should you be doing now?"
2. "What's your job?"
3. "Is what you're doing helping or hurting?"

I usually use the assistance intervention sentences. I like to do a "hit and run." That means walk over to the table and gently say, "Can I help you get started?" and then walk away. If the student needs help they will ask, but if they don't need help I continue walking and they get the message that it is time to start.

If the student does not get back on task after a couple of friendly reminders then a further discussion can take place. This discussion can include saying something like, "If you can figure out a plan that can make this work for you and me, then..."

30 second interventions are respectful ways to get students back on task. It is also important to watch your tone and the body language because it makes up 90% of your message. It has allowed me to have far less confrontations with students.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Towards a More Democratic Classroom

School has started and I have been getting to know my students. We have been teaching 2 weeks and I have done a few things that have let my students know that it is “our class” and not “my class.” They have responded well to their new freedoms. I want to share a few of the things I have tried so far. My objective is, indeed, to make the classroom experience more of a democratic one, as opposed to the usual “teacher dictates the rules.”

I began the school year by asking the students to vote on a few rules for the class: Is wearing hates allowed? Is food allowed? What about Ipods? Chewing gum? The students voted on each proposal and, to no one’s surprise, they approved each. I told them, however, with more freedom come a few responsibilities. For example, put all trash in the garbage can, only listen to your Ipod when doing an individual activity, etc.

On Friday, I told them something that would give them the feeling that, indeed, it was our class and not just mine: I told them they could rearrange the classroom as they saw fit. After I said this, a few of the boys rearranged their tables to form an L shape. (I only have tables in my class.) The others were happy the way they were situated but have the right to change when they see fit.

Those are just a few things I have tried thus far. My goal towards a democratic classroom continues. Indeed, my goal towards a better learning environment also continues.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Living Longer, Healthier Lives

There are 2 subjects that need more attention in some schools: Physical Exercise

and Nutrition studies. We educate the mind but what about the body? Daily exercise promotes a healthier lifestyle. With the higher obesity rates in children, why is this not a priority in some districts? I was delighted recently when our government implemented a mandatory 20 minutes of daily exercise for K-9.

What about nutrition? Nutrition goes hand in hand with exercise. Why is this not a priority in the upper grades of some districts? Students should be taught about proper nutrition so they can make healthier food choices. Some students, of course, would still choose the foods they currently eat, but at least they will know what they are eating.

Have you thought of this before? How much exercise and nutrition education do your students get? If we want our students to be life long learners, do we not want them to live a long life too? Of course we do.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Using Delicious in the Classroom

I discovered about 7 months ago. It has made organizing my teaching life far easier and as a result added to my classroom. If you are not familiar with Delicious it works like this: it allows you to get to your bookmarks from any computer, anytime, anywhere.

To get started download an add on for Delicious on your browser and start bookmarking. If you want to access your bookmarks from another computer, you can do it in 2 ways: 1) You can sign in to Delicious to access or 2) You can make your bookmarks public and just type the web address of your bookmarks. Once you type the address you are off and running.

The way I use Delicious is quite simple. Since I do a lot of my work at home, I often bookmark at home and then access those bookmarks at school. For example, if there are several youtube videos I want to show students on Planets, I bookmark them at home and then load them when I go to school in the morning. Moreover, you can open each bookmark in a different tab or window. I find that convenient. Just right click on the bookmark and choose the option you want.

The way of organizing Delicious bookmarks is different from the standard practice of browsers. Delicious does not use the standard “create a folder” format. Instead you tag your bookmark. You can tag your bookmarks with as many tags as you wish. At first I found this awkward because I was used to folders. However, being able to give bookmarks many tags allows for you to access a bookmark easier. It is true when Delicious says “Tag your bookmarks. Collections will naturally emerge.”

I hope this has helped you to understand Delicious. I welcome any comments adding to the benefits of Delicious.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ask yourself one question: Is it Important?

Freedom (choices) is one of our basic needs. Changing from a teacher controlled classroom to one where students are given more freedom is difficult for many teachers. In fact, I think it is in our “teacher DNA” to control everything in our class. Why? For many, that’s how we experienced school. My teachers controlled everything and I assumed that is how I was supposed to teach. Indeed, the biggest obstacle to school change is our memories.

When I learned about William Glasser's Control Theory about basic needs three years ago from Diane Gossen and Joel Shimoji, I discovered that a classroom could look and feel different. I learned that if I could meet the basic needs of students, I would have a happier class. Indeed, a happier class leads to more learning.

Meeting the basic needs of students, however, meant I would have to abandon the “total control” mindset. One of the things I would have to do was meet the freedom need of my students. It was not as easy as I thought. So, how did I begin the transition to a more student centred class? Diane Gossen recommended I ask myself one simple question: Is it important?

What does “Is it important” mean? If a student asked me a question, for example, if he or she can sit on the floor to complete a project, the old me would have said, "no." I used to think that the only place for students was in his or her chair. Now I ask, "Is it important if the student does not sit at his or her chair?" Of course not. Another student may ask, "May I listen to my ipod?" My immediate reply before would have been, "No!" Now I just say, "yes, if you are working alone and we can't hear your music.

There are instances, however, when it IS important to you. For example, if not eating in class is important to you, then you will say no if a student asks to eat. Moreover, listening to ipods in class may be something that you just won’t accept. I think about it this way: If a request is made that interferes with the learning of others, that student has to think of a different way to meet the freedom need.

A teacher receives many requests from students. Each time you get a question ask yourself, is it important? This simple question is the first step to transition from a teacher controlled environment to one with more freedom for students. Indeed, challenge your memories all the way to a happy class where students can flourish.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Meeting the Needs of Students

Well, this is my new blog. I have been thinking about writing about student needs for awhile and finally got enough energy to do it.

In the fall of 2007 I attended a P.I. conference and learned about William Glasser's Control Theory. Basically, Glasser says we all have 5 basic needs, one physical and four psychological. If all needs are being met then people will be happy. Translation for a classroom teacher: If we meet the needs of our students we will have happier students; Hence, more learning.

So, what are the needs?

1. Survival: Food, shelter, water, etc.

2. Fun: anything that gives us pleasure, enjoyment.

3. Freedom: This means choices. Freedom to choose what you do.

4. Power/Success: Being successful. When you are successful it increases your self-esteem.

5. Love/Belonging: Feeling loved through family, friends, being a part of a team, organizations, etc. Not feeling lonely.

The way I plan my lessons is influenced by these needs. I try to ensure that the lessons and class activities contain all 5 needs.

Here are a few examples of how I meet each need:

Fun: 1. Hands on activities. 2. Sometimes I take the last 5 minutes of a class and show a few funny videos from the pod cast The best of You Tube. 3. Any type of game like heads up 7 up. 4. Cooking- baking bread in a bread maker. 5. Pizza party.

Freedom: 1.I allow students to sit where they want. If their choice becomes a disturbance, I talk with them to solve this problem. 2. Giving students choices in assignments is well received. Ex. The way they choose to do a novel assignment is a good way to meet this need. Do they do a report, diorama, play, etc. You can give them the choice.

Power/success: Ensuring that all students have a chance to succeed is essential. If some are not good at tests, they might be good at debating, acting, music or art. I ensure I give them the opportunity to succeed at their strength.

Love/belonging: I greet my students at the door each day. I have a calendar board for the month where I write various birthdays or events the students have that month. This makes each student feel included. Group activities are good too for meeting this need.

Survival: If a student is hungry they can get a juice and a snack at the office. We also have a breakfast program.

Some activities meet all 4 psychological needs at the same time. I like those.

I teach the needs to my students at the beginning of the year and review them throughout. If they do get upset for some reason I discuss which need is not being met and I ask the student to try and solve their problem. They come up with their own plan. If it is realistic we put it into action. (For some major problems such as fighting or drugs, it is dealt with by the office under our school policy.)

Like most teachers, I was meeting some needs for students before I learned about Control Theory. Now, however, I have a better understanding of why students behave the way they do. Through this understanding I questioned my old classroom practices and changed a lot of my ways. As a result of my change, my class is a happier place.

Thanks for reading.