‘Cold-calling’ — done right — is an effective way to build classroom participation

Presenting in front of the class makes me uncomfortable. If the teacher calls on me, I tense up and can’t speak. Running in phy ed makes me self-conscious and ashamed. There are a lot of things we ask of students that they don’t want to do. Does that mean we should stop asking? Earlier this…

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Let’s do what works, not what’s easy

This week, I posted a new article to my blog at NeverBore.org about why critics denounce interactive teaching — and why they are wrong. I’ll be posting there once a month on topics related to my book, Beat Boredom, my curriculum products, and the topic of interactive teaching. I’ll continue to use this MarthaRush.org blog…

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Have you done your homework on homework?

Take this quick True/False quiz: T/F Homework in high school should be limited to 10 minutes per night, per class. T/F Most high school students do about two hours of homework per night. T/F Research has found no correlation between homework and achievement. T/F Homework is always beneficial to students. T/F Homework is never beneficial…

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‘I don’t know this word’… Why student knowledge and context matter

My friend Mary, a bookseller in Chicago, told me I need to read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Westover was was raised by American survivalists, and her story explains how she broke with her family’s extremist ideology and left home to seek her education, culminating in a Ph.D. from Cambridge. The part that stuck…

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Relationships: Necessary but NOT sufficient for student learning

“They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” “Great teachers focus not on compliance but on connections and relationships.” “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” It’s that time of year when the teacher-web is heating up with inspirational reminders that we have…

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What do we do when students don’t know seemingly everyday words?

When is the last time you encountered words (in English) that you didn’t know? How did it impact your understanding? How did it make you feel? I encounter unfamiliar words once in a while, but I honestly can’t recall a recent example. The last time I was truly stymied by vocabulary was my sophomore year…

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Our students want to do work — when it’s work that matters

I love this story from last week’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune about North High students presenting research on social issues at a recent University of Minnesota symposium. One student presented his research on police brutality. Another her work on disparate maternal mortality rates for black women. Other topics included domestic abuse, poverty and immigration. The students surveyed…

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Teaching writing is everyone’s job

Nothing is more difficult to teach — at least at the K-12 level — than writing. You can teach kids vocabulary terms and math formulas and scientific principles all sorts of ways, both good and bad. You can lecture, assign reading, assign videos, hand out worksheets, develop experiments, create matching games. But no one can…

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Moving to PBL is a challenging (but worthy) task for teachers

Changing the way we teach is hard. At times, almost overwhelmingly hard. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was invited to sit in with a terrific group of New Richmond, Wisconsin, teachers who are using my book (Beat Boredom) for a book study. The 20 teachers in the book study are meeting for…

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Let’s stop teaching like it’s 1899

Have you seen the picture? You know, the sepia-toned one with all of the kids sitting in desks in straight rows, representing American public schools 100 years ago? Or the newer version, the stock photo that got many of us riled up at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos? Because no, of course we don’t teach like…

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