Help for students who lack logic

Have you ever had to teach logical reasoning to teenagers? I have — many times — and it’s very difficult. A few kids are fairly logical already; building on that is easy. But teens who don’t think logically at all have a hard time even understanding the task. Asking them to construct an argument with…

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Make time in class for what’s happening outside

ABC News How do you react when events outside the classroom are clearly affecting students inside? Do you take time to let students talk about their opinions, experiences, and questions? Or do you do what most of us do — stick to the lesson plan? Years ago, Mary Dilworth and Carlton Brown interviewed urban teenagers…

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When to cold-call? Today.

When is the best time to start cold-calling students? The first day of class. There are plenty of reasons not to. We have to “get through” the syllabus. We don’t know the students’ names yet. We haven’t built a relationship yet. The students haven’t learned any of the material yet. But I’m going to argue…

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What’s next when reform fails?

What do you do when you’ve invested a lot of time and money in an educational reform, and it doesn’t work? If you’re the Los Angeles school district, and you spent $1.3 billion on iPads and educational software that doesn’t transform student learning, you sue to recoup some of your money. But what if your…

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Spending our way to greater inequality

According to a massive research study described in last week’s Education Week (May 11), the wealthiest school districts in our country have the worst inequality. The Berkeleys, the Evanstons, and the Chapel Hills have the largest achievement gaps, while poor districts have the smallest. There are many causes — including student tracking, intra-district spending disparities, racism, family…

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Fail fast… or not at all?

It’s been a few years since I have failed a student. Usually, the extensive scaffolding, phone calls home, opportunities for retakes and frequent attention/harassment I provide are enough to keep everyone on track, at least enough to earn an honest D. In the few cases where they are not — the student who rarely comes…

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New teachers need help, not hurdles

When I started teaching at Mounds View High School in 1997, I was about as well prepared as a new teacher can be. I was already eight years out of undergrad, with five years experience in journalism, three years in other schools and a little life experience. I was idealistic, organized, self-confident and willing to…

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Even a great lecture isn’t good enough

What’s one thing you could do tomorrow that would definitely engage more students? That’s easy. Inject your lesson with more opportunities to participate. It sounds too simple to be true — how could asking a question, giving a formative quiz, or allowing five minutes to think/pair/share really make any difference? And doesn’t everyone already do…

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New teachers need real feedback

There’s always a lot of talk about teacher evaluation, but not so much about feedback, which is the heart of our enterprise. What is the point of evaluation if not to provide meaningful information about an individual’s strengths, weaknesses and growth? Unless you just want a reason to fire someone. We would never assign students a…

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Competition is powerful, so use it with care

Nearly 30 years ago, Alfie Kohn made his case against competition. “It’s always unnecessary and inappropriate at school, at play and at home,” he wrote, citing studies that show children learn better when they work together. Kohn argued that competition makes children anxious and humiliates the losers, with no clear benefit to the winners. In…

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