Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Movie Making and Classroom Management Have in Common

behavior and classroom management
Every day, articles are posted on the Internet discussing, highlighting, and mentioning the necessity of implementing technology in the classroom. While most of the articles you read will be about using video games to help with math, or creating class blogs to assist students develop their English skills, this week, I read an article that demonstrated using technology in a completely different way.

Recently, the words “classroom management” took on a whole new meaning as an educator used today’s technology to initiate a creative approach to classroom clean-up. We’ve all experienced trying to get students to do things they don’t want to do, but never have I heard of a solution like the following.

As Todd Nelson explains, “Nothing cleans quite like a little QuickTime movie starring fifth and sixth graders.” Todd approached the task of cleaning the classroom as an opportunity for movie making. His idea hadn’t been planned out, put together, or even carefully thought through, but spontaneity can foster brilliant ideas.

“The film genre was born quite by accident. It was a slow clean-up day on aisle two, and I really wasn’t thinking beyond an amusing ploy when I said, ‘Why don’t we make a movie of clean-up time?’ The result: Instant dharma. Lights, action, camera, whirling dervishes…clean. Chore turns to limelight,” described Nelson.

So where did the inspiration begin? Nelson realized that, “this is the generation for whom there has always been MTV, for whom “music” and “video” have always been inseparable, for whom there is a sound- and video-track for everything. You almost get the feeling that for something to be real and valid, it has to have been recorded. We are all celebrities of our own digital record keeping; all paparazzi of same.”

Nelson’s method may raise questions about what really motivates students to action, or if video making has just become a teacher’s favorite classroom management tool, but it’s probably too early to tell. For now, as Nelson so quaintly puts it, “It’s all good. Whatever gets the crayons off the floor without nagging.”

To learn more about Todd Nelson's movie-making clean up, click here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Boys Will Be Boys: Thinking Differently About How to Educate Boys in Grade School

Katheryn Rivas, a writer from our friends at online universities blog, submitted this post on early childhood behavior. These classroom management strategies help us understand and work with elementary boys of all ages. I hope you enjoy!

behavior and classroom management, boys will be boys
Boys will be boys. So the saying goes — and yet, so many boys in schools all around the country are being punished for being just that: boys. Aggressive, physical, and energetic behavior in school-aged boys has long been a hotly contested topic among child psychologists, teachers, and academics. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, boys
  • are 30% more likely than girls to fail or drop out of the education system
  • are up to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD
  • under-perform against girls in academics, all the way to graduate school
Schools today increasingly mete out strict consequences for unruly, distractible, and impulsive boys, but are they responding to boys with counter-productive methods? Developmentally, boys are not as mature in grade school as girls, especially in verbal and fine motor capacities. The elementary classroom curriculum is sometimes at least 80% language-based, which puts average boys at a severe disadvantage and worse, doesn't give them the opportunity to become fluent or to practice the language in a safe environment before they are frustrated by expectations that are too high.

Furthermore, with many schools paring down or in some cases completely eliminating recess periods, boys — who learn more quickly by physically playing and socializing — are stifled and stunted by being constricted to the classroom. Joseph Tobin, PhD, a professor of early childhood education, remarks, "The most tiring thing you can ask a boy to do is sit down. It's appropriate to expect for kids to sit still for part of the day, but not all of the day."

The combination of boys' naturally defiant rambunctiousness and schools' intolerance of such behavior often worsens the tendency boys have to act out. Stricter punishments lead to louder resistance. The cycle is unlikely to end unless teachers are prepared to modify their strategies to accommodate their boy students. Here are some ways to compensate for a boy's playfulness and assertiveness in the classroom to both help foster a healthy and positive relationship with learning as well as handle their behavior without snuffing out their spirit:
  1. Encourage play. Include as much physical activity for boys as you can in your curriculum, both indoors and out. Children learn by playing, and will expend energy that will otherwise go to aggressiveness or unruliness.
  2. Tailor lessons to boys' needs. Balance out your lesson plans with activities that will appeal to boys, such as building things, to keep them engaged and to optimize their learning. Touching, moving, climbing—anything that involves use of their bodies and is "hands-on" will help them learn more effectively.
  3. Let them choose reading material. So often schools want students to read material that is not only uninteresting, but that actively bores them. Of course, school shouldn't always cater to the wants of the students, but they (especially boys) will be much more motivated to read independently if they are able to read or write about things that interest them.
Remembering that boys and girls develop differently is a critical part of knowing how to best educate them. Sometimes bad behavior in the classroom is not the result of an overly energetic boy, but an education system that doesn't support a boy's natural growth and tries to shape boys into something other than what they are: boys.
About the Author

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities blog. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Classroom Management: The Law of Least Intervention

This week's free PD 360 video is called "The Law of Least Intervention," and I think you'll find it fascinating.

behavior and classroom management
Sometimes it's tough not to react.

Sometimes it's very difficult not to make an example of some kids.

But that's what they want, isn't it? A lesson that I have had to learn in various teaching capacities is that when a student acts out, it is very often because they want attention. So what do I do? In my mind, I correct the problem. But to the student, they get the attention they were looking for. Perhaps it's not positive attention, but if they are willing to misbehave, then they are probably past the point of only seeking positive interaction. So when I react (read: over-react) to classroom behavior problems, these students have achieved their goal. It's not surprising, then, that I have faced classroom behavior problems in the past.

That being said, we still need to address the problem. Sometimes ignoring the student or not adequately addressing his or her issues only leads to more dramatic misbehavior. So how do you strike the right balance?

There is no universal cure for every student's classroom behavior problems, but there are some principals we can follow. I hope you enjoy Classroom Management: The Law of Least Intervention.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Managing Behavior with Trust: An Assistant Principal Weighs In

Here's a 3-step process and one highly successful assistant principal's experience in helping students resolve their own behavior issues. Curtis Nightingale, assistant principal at Pratt High School in Pratt, Kansas, returns to the School Improvement blog to weigh in on issues faced by administrators and teachers alike. 

I believe the key to handling discipline, i.e. “classroom management,” is all about people skills. Conflict will happen—that is something we cannot control. But how we approach that conflict—that, we can control. Refusing to take it personal and making your students your allies rather than your opponents is the place to start.

Moment Management

behavior and classroom management
photo courtesy of
If you will approach difficult moments (those moments where you as an educator feel challenged by a student) in very much the same way you approach teachable moments (when things don’t go as planned, yet a good educator will find a way to make even that event a learning experience) you can begin to see them more as a positive challenge rather than a negative one.

Helping them to break down the conflict in terms they can understand and the ability to see the other side is key to moment management. Many teachers do this through norm setting exercises, tribal councils, etc. The principle is the same. Helping them to recognize the roles in the room--the staff’s and theirs--can help them better understand the conflict. In other words, basic citizenship.

Building Relationships on Trust

I will admit, I rarely had discipline issues in my class. In fact, I am not sure I ever sent a student to the office—short of a fight in the hallway, of course. Now, that may be due to the fact that at 6’2” and 245 pounds I had a “calming effect” on my students, but I like to believe it had more to do with the relationship I developed with them.

I attempted to foster a “we” atmosphere in my room. “We” were going to attack the subject at hand and “we” were going to figure it out. At times I may have pretended not to know the answers, and quite frankly there were times I did not have to pretend, but I was attempting to foster a trench mentality…us against the world, the computers, the textbook, the test…you get the idea.

Many of my potential discipline issues were solved within the first few weeks of school just through the development of an actual relationship with my students. Through our give and take they didn’t want to let me down, thus there was never an issue of disrespect, defiance, or refusal to do what I asked. Did I have kids that failed my class? Yes. Did I have kids who served detentions for me? You bet. Did kids get mad at me? I am sure they did, but I also had to bar kids from eating lunch in my room with me…some of those same kids! I am a firm believer that there are days where the only positive adult contact some of our kids will have is that contact they have with us educators. Sad, yes; sobering, even more so.

How I Help Students Get Over It

As an assistant principal, I will get kids in my office for various defiance issues, and these are the steps I would follow:
  1. I always ask them their side first. I validate their viewpoint and then ask them what they believe he teacher’s issues to be.
  2. I may then read them the teacher’s comments and we then begin discussing the issue as if they are watching another student involved in the same situation. As we talk through it, I take away emotion, I take away personal viewpoint because of course we can’t know what a stranger is thinking or feeling. As we move through the exercise, they begin to recognize how the teacher/sub/staff member saw their behavior.
  3. We then look at the policy and I quote them the worst-case scenario consequence. I ask them how they would apply this to our subject in question.
The next time I deal with this student, the exercise is much more concise, because I have built both trust and a relationship already. And I have done this with one visit of most often less than 5 – 10 minutes. As a teacher I had them for 85 minutes every other day, all year/semester long.

If handled appropriately, imagine the relationship that could be developed with that amount of time!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Encouraging Entrepreneurial Behaviour at an Early Age

Here's a guest post that Isaac floated my way, and I must admit, I'm not sure that I agree with him. But rather than censor articles that I don't agree with, I'd like to see what you think. Are math, science, and logic the most essential skills to develop for entrepreneurs? Do children need to develop social behavior in order to succeed? As a creative guy (I'm a writer) who is also quite quirky (I repeat, I'm a writer), I'm inclined to disagree. What do you think?

Success at being an entrepreneur is all about innovation. Being able to see things in a new light by taking a more efficient road leads to a more productive society. This is why it is important to develop entrepreneurial skills at a young age to encourage growth in this area. The more young business people we have in the world, the better off and more efficient society will be as a whole.

image courtesy of
People are becoming billionaires at younger ages than ever. The developers of Google were college students when they first came up with the idea for the search engine. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, was a young student at Harvard when he created his revolutionary social media site. Also young entrepreneurs were the makers of YouTube; a new platform for sharing videos online. These new ideas and developments came from minds of the youth and were successfully transformed into very profitable business ventures.

One of the biggest reasons it is possible for young people to be successful in the world of entrepreneurship is because persons are becoming competent with computers at earlier stages in life. Understanding technology is vital for many reasons. It allows for the transition of good thoughts into stellar products. Computers are one of the fastest changing technologies and innovation with software and programs allows for tailoring to fit a niche market. A young entrepreneur will need to be competent with computers to be successful. For this reason, instill a thirst for knowledge in the virtual world and a better society will rise because of it.

Similarly, it is important for young people to have a sound sense of logic. Computers are a manifestation of logic and are capable of only answering yes or no questions. However, asking the right questions enables programs to do incredible things. Math and science are also based in logic and person with good skills this area will have a leg up in the world of business. Young entrepreneurial people will need solid math and logic skills to achieve their life goals.

All of these skills must start developing as soon as possible. This starts with great teachers and instruction. Children with potential usually have early signs of their precociousness. Watch for keen insight, strength in math and science, and a willingness to learn not just for school but also for the love of knowledge. Encourage after school programs that develop logic and reason. Also, stimulating games like chess or bridge are a great way to further increase these skills.

Becoming a young entrepreneur will not be without its difficulties. One of the most priceless assets is life lessons. Many people who begin their business venture will run into situations they have not previously encountered. This is why it is also vital to have good relationships with other business minded people and mentors to encourage a person when faced with a difficult situation. Networking is the key to any successful venture. Knowing when and who to ask for help are essential.

This is why social development is also an important behaviour to develop at an early age. A closed off child who does not like to play with others may show tendencies to isolate in later stages of life. Encourage kids to have strong relationships with friends and family. Engage in conversations with children. One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is being overly dictatorial and not listening to what a child has to say. Instead of exclusively telling a child what to do, ask them what they think or what they have learned. A business person will need to lead; not to follow. Confidence will build in kids who are routinely allowed to express themselves and can do so in an interesting way.

Developing social skills later in life is also important in the world of business. Many people judge a person not only on content but also on professional appearance as well. Take speech classes to gain confidence when speaking in front of large groups. Business etiquette courses are also available. This will allow for young people to become competent and strong minded. First establishing connections and networking with other businesses requires confidence and an ability to present one's ideas not only in a logical manner but in a convincing way as well.

Isaac is a keen business blogger whose favourite writing subjects are successful entrepreneurship, automatic enrollment and social media.