For students, doing beats listening

A few weeks ago, I wrote about launching my experiment with “no lecture” AP Macroeconomics this spring. I should note — I didn’t start this experiment because my students were performing poorly. 61 of my 65 students passed the AP test last year, and nearly all of them were freshmen. It was a pretty successful…

Read More

Teamwork: Annoying AND essential

Should high school students work in teams — or solo? When I was a student, we did about 90 percent of our work alone. With the exception of lab work in science and the occasional English group project, we were expected to learn independently, so we would be prepared for individual success later. Back then,…

Read More

First, don’t embarrass anyone

One of my former students, now a sophomore, visited the other day and reminisced about last year’s econ class. It was a hard class for him, but he pulled through with a B-. Out of the blue, he said: “I wasn’t afraid of you.”  I was a little taken aback. “What do you mean?” I…

Read More

Letting go of lecture

AP Macroeconomics is the most traditional class I teach. Still too teacher-directed, still too organized around lecture-practice-homework. I know better — yes, I’ve written an entire book on active learning strategies — but it’s been hard to let go. Macro is a difficult subject, and it’s a lot of content for high school kids to…

Read More

Not giving up on homework yet

When I first started teaching in 1994, assigning homework was a no-brainer. It was part of the Madeline Hunter model — “independent practice” — and part of preparing high school students for independent learning in college. It’s also how I was taught. In high school in the ’80s, I spent hours each night doing math…

Read More

Forgetting is part of our nature

You didn’t tell us to read that chapter. I didn’t know there was a test today! I was supposed to take out the garbage? How often do we share an important piece of information with our students — or children or colleagues or friends, for that matter — and find the next day, they’ve completely…

Read More

Can’t we be just a little bit funny?

  In the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing textbooks and educational videos for a couple of different companies. Sounds fun, right? Not really. The biggest shortcoming of most of these materials is that they aren’t funny. At all. You won’t even crack a smile looking at them. They’re so completely devoid of humor that…

Read More

Living the 1970s dream: A lesson in critical thinking

Are Americans’ lives getting worse? Or does it just seem that way? One of our core responsibilities as high school teachers is to help our students develop critical thinking skills, learn to question assumptions and challenge “common sense”. It’s something we humans are bad at — as a rule — for all sorts of complex…

Read More

Sleepless in Psych

Yesterday in AP Psych, I tried to illustrate the difference between “effortful” and “automatic” processing by asking a student what, if anything, he ate for breakfast. Normally, that’s a pretty easy question. No one has to intentionally encode it. No flashcards required. He looked at me, a little confused, and said, “I’m so tired, I…

Read More

Kids can’t stop themselves – time for the adults to step in

How often do you check your smartphone? Every hour? Every five minutes? Multiple times per minute? Stop and think about why. Are you really waiting for an urgent call — say, from a doctor, a family member or your boss? Or are you just hoping there will be something cool or funny there? A bit…

Read More