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…

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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…

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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…

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The one skill all grads need

If you’ve ever remodeled your house, you know that nothing goes as planned. Last year, bathroom remodelers taking out old shower tile accidentally cut through a pipe (that was installed the wrong way) and flooded our kitchen, directly below. This year, kitchen remodelers removed old soffits and discovered they were not just decorative — they…

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Late work IS still a problem

A good friend recently returned to teaching high school, after a long hiatus. Now she’s kind of like Rip Van Winkle, waking up to see how the world around her has changed. The biggest shock so far, she told me, is the idea that due dates don’t matter much anymore. She can’t wrap her head…

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Not your normal school project

Picture a room packed with 35-40 high school students eager to start working on a project, except you, the teacher, have no idea what the project will be. Will they create pencil cases? T-shirts for school teams? Will they design an app or a bot or an e-book? Or will they make jewelry? Car safety…

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What makes teams work? Ask Google

Google has spent 1000s of hours trying to figure out how to make people work better in teams. The answer? Teams are most effective when there is “psychological safety” — in other words, everyone feels safe contributing ideas, questioning others (even the boss), and sharing problems. In the best teams, people feel free to offer…

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Are we ready for student speech?

“Do you think high school students have the same right to free speech as adults?” This warmup question, which I used for years as an introduction to teaching Tinker v. Des Moines to my Civil Liberties classes, sparked a heated discussion among teachers at a workshop I led earlier this week. No issue is more…

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It’s tough to change our default setting

Did you ever notice how much we (teachers) love to talk? Recently, I was able to watch another instructor pilot some lessons I’d written. The curriculum was specifically designed to be student-driven and interactive — i.e. not a lecture — and I had planned a series of discovery-based activities that would let students do most…

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It’s not about obedience anymore

What do puppy training and teaching have in common? More than you might imagine. A month ago, we adopted a new dog, Taffy, into our home. She’s two years old, a terrier-ish “rescue,” described by her foster family as “very high energy.” (We also have Star, another terrier-ish “rescue,” who is about five years old.)…

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