Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Life Hacks and Teaching Hacks: Part 2

I’m on a Life Hack “kick”. I actually watched an awesome video on youtube where my secret author-crush, John Green tested several Life Hacks out, kind of like Mythbusters-style. Hilarious and helpful!

Life Hacks that are dumb:

  1. Using your pants hanger as a chip clip. Are your pants on the floor now? Are your chip needs stronger than your clean-pants needs? I would vote for unwrinkled pants, but that’s just me...
  2. Using a cassette case as a cell phone stand. Do you really need to stand your phone up? Do you need that enough to get your cassettes out of that box in your garage and use one of the few cassette cases that did not break in the 90s and leave that cassette hanging out un-cased and put the cassette liner back in the box to get crumpled -- all because you can’t look down onto your table or desk or counter? Really?
  3. Using your soda can tab to hold your straw. First of all, do you really need a straw with your can? Do you carry straws with you, just in case you decide to have a can of soda? Second, does the floating straw really bother you that much? Really? It doesn’t float away into the sky, you know.

Teaching Hack that is dumb:

Hand sanitizer as a bathroom pass. Can someone count all the ways this could go wrong? Sprayed all over campus? Gotten in eyes? A “hand sanitizer flinging fight”? Someone ingesting that stuff? Yikes!

GOOD Teaching Hack:

Use a “call-on system”. Don’t just call on the kids with their hands up. Calling on only raised hands gives you four problems:
    1. Problem #1: Kids with their hands up learn. Everyone else sits back and lets the hand-raisers do the thinking. This is scheduled napping-with-your-eyes-open time for the non-hand-raisers!
    2. Problem #2: You, the teacher, have no idea what, if anything, the rest of the class is learning. And you won’t know for a week or two until the test and you say, “Wow! These kids didn’t learn anything!”
    3. Problem #3: Kids who don’t raise their hands learn that you won’t call on them and assume that you don’t care if they learn or not.
    4. Problem #4: Or they learn that being called on is a “gotcha”. When teachers run out of raised hands, they often call on the kids that look the least engaged as a way of “busting” the kid who is lost or daydreaming or whatever.

Instead -- use a Call-on system.

You can go low tech -- like putting a number on each desk, putting the same numbers on a set of popsicle sticks, and pulling a popsicle stick out of a bag and calling on the student sitting in the corresponding desk.

Or, you can go high-tech with Class Dojo which will randomly call on a kid when you have entered all the student names into the system. You-the-teacher can use it on your projector, your smart board, your phone, your ipad, whatever.

But however you do this, make sure you set it up correctly -- TELL YOUR KIDS WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND WHY. You can’t start a call-on system in October without some good preparation

Even high school kids need a call on system. Why?
  1. It holds every kid accountable. Every kid has to learn the material (or at least TRY) and be prepared to answer or share.
  2. It tells your kids that you care that each of them learns. That you’re not just interested in what the hand-raisers have to say (and what those hand-raisers have learned) -- you’re interested in what EVERY kid has to say and what every kid is learning.
  3. It helps you figure out where your kids are lost, stuck, confused, or wrong EARLY in your instruction. This way, you are doing formative assessment and you know where they need help or re-teaching BEFORE you get to the formal test or quiz. So you can, you know reteach or adapt your lesson.

  • Set up a plan for the kid who can’t or won’t answer. Do you allow him to “phone a friend” (I mean, talk to a neighbor)? Do you give him a minute to think and come back to him? Are you aware of the kid who just got a referral last period and is struggling to keep himself from blowing up this period? I would skip that kid if he asks you to.
  • Preach again and again that you are doing this because you CARE, not because you’re a “gotcha”-kind-of-jerk.
  • Be consistent with your system. Use it frequently, at least until your kids are used to it. Make it a part of your procedures.

Do you use a “call-on” system? How do you use it? What have you learned from it? Any tips for folks new to “call-on” systems?

AS always, I love to hear from you! Email me!

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