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Teach Math Like Its Never Been Taught Before

March 15, 2018

math-problem

When you begin teaching your 5th or 6th Grade Math class, you often start with a high dose of ego.

You tell yourself that you can easily set any struggling student right by carefully and clearly explaining the skills and processes involved.

And then reality sinks in. It’s clearly not as easy as that.

There is a reason why your struggling students have continued to struggle throughout their first 5 or so years of schooling. It’s not the strength of the teachers they’ve encountered, because chances are, there have been some extremely adept teachers who have used tried and true methods for helping those student bridge the ever widening gaps.

Many teachers have expressed a reluctance of teaching 5th sand 6th Grade Math due to the introduction of concepts and skills which many Primary teachers find difficult. In truth, the major test of a 5th or 6th Grade teacher is not the skills itself, but rather the challenge of helping students learn skills they haven’t been able to grasp from their talented and competent previous teachers.

In order to cut through, teachers are therefore required to change things up. To employ slightly different ways of teaching the same skill. The following are some adjustments that work for me.

  1. Integrate the Skill in a Game – Kids love winning and try to avoid losing at all cost. Game play provides an incentive for children to learn skills that they may have ordinarily have claimed was too difficult. Dice games are the best because it provides a randomness that allows weaker students to often prevail over stronger students. I am constantly blown away by how effective game play is to break through to kids who usually struggle with Math.
  2. Change the wording – The wording of Math is so scientific and technical. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. So change it up. Instead of numerator and denominator, I use top bunk and bottom bunk. It helps. It doesn’t mean I will never teach them the right terminology, it just means I am more focused on the skill that the wording which can often intimidate.
  3. Reinforce the Objectives of Math – There is a reason why Math was invented and kids need to know that to be able to relate to it. I tell my students Math was invented for 2 main purposes. Firstly, to save us time. So instead of having to add 7 +7 a total of 8 times, I can just apply the sum 7×8, which is much quicker and easier. And secondly, for fairness. When I am dividing a birthday cake, everyone wants an equal sized piece. It turns out that children deeply value fairness and relate to the idea of resorting to shortcuts. Why not then explain how the skill of the day fits into one or both of the above categories?
  4. Bite Sized Pieces – I can’t tell you how many students I have confronted in the upper years who weren’t able to read time from an analogue clock. The big mistake, as I eluded to earlier, is to think that a careful and patient demonstration of what the big and little hands tell us will work. Again, you can bet that plenty of highly competent teachers have tried without success. My strategy is to break up the skill into small, bite-sized pieces. I tell them to ignore the hour hand. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just focus on the minute hand. The next step is to show them the function of the minute hand and not move on until they get it. Only then do I introduce the hour hand. The problem that I have found is that reading an analogue clock involves a level of multitasking which kids (boys especially) find very intimidating. Take it slowly. One skill at a time. They respond better to that.
  5. Use What They Know – Students tend to do much better with currency than decimals. This is quite ironic, as decimals and currency are essentially the same thing. I tell all my students who struggle with decimals to pretend that 0.75 for example, is 75 cents. It helps! Math professors would be irate if they found out I was doing this. They would remind me that students will become unstuck when they encounter a decimal like 0.751, which doesn’t work with the currency technique. So what! Once I have taught them through currency their confidence levels are so high, I have found they are quite receptive to learning the differences that exist between decimals and money.

By the time your students have reached 5th Grade, they already have a sense for whether they like a subject and whether they are proficient at it. It’s so hard to turn the unconfident and unenthusiastic learners around.

But don’t give up. Just do it differently.

 

Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

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Good Teachers Are Prepared to Stuff Up

March 6, 2018

 

So a science teacher causes a fire in the name of a fairly interesting looking scientific demonstration.

The fire department was called and it would have been an utterly humiliating experience for teacher and school alike (not to mention a costly one).

I hope his boss does something very counter intuitive and  congratulates him on his lesson. It’s so easy to conduct a boring, safe and incident free science lesson. Many science teachers go for that option only to find out that their class has lost interest and turned to their mobile phones to pass the time.

All teachers make mistakes, but the good ones are prepared to make them in order to teach in an engaging and enlightening way.

I hope he tried the very same experiment all over again the very next day!

 

Click on the link to read Teacher Installs Bike Peddles at Student Desks

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Click on the link to read Why are So Many Teaching PD’s Dull?

Click on the link to read Teacher Praised after Stripping in Front of Her Students

Athletes Can Share Their Political Views but Teachers Can’t

February 19, 2018

Laura Ingram is wrong about LeBron James. He, and all other athletes are entitled to give whatever opinion they want, whether it be about sport, art or politics. Just like plumbers, engineers and dentists, he can say whatever he chooses.

There is only one profession in which it would be a problem if they were to vocalise their political views – the schoolteacher.

It is not our job to fill impressionable young children with our politics, but rather to give them the tools to make their own observations and build their own understandings.

I don’t want my students to think like me, I want them to think according to their own value system and find their own place in the world.

So LeBron can say whatever he chooses … at least until he stops dribbling and trades his multi million dollar career for a teacher’s wage.

In Defence of Private Schools

January 29, 2018

 

Private schools have been given a hard time of late and for no rational reason.

As a teacher, I desperately want our public schools to thrive. I’ve loved teaching in them and would happily go back if the opportunity presented itself. But to say that the failings of the public system is even in part to the existence of private schools is laughable. It holds no logic whatsoever.

In truth, private schools have a positive impact on just about every stakeholder in education.

I will now list them and explain exactly how and why.

 

Public Schools

The existence of private schools is beneficial to public schools? How can that be?

Easy. One of the big imposts on a public school classroom is class size. Public school teachers are already concerned by current class size numbers. Thanks to the continual popularity of private schools, public school class sizes aren’t even more compromised.

The innovation that takes place in private schools also has a strong trickle down benefit in public schools. To differentiate itself from other private schools, a given school will turn to innovation and experimentation to give their school an added selling point to perspective parents. From visible thinking and mindfulness programs to other cutting edge ideas such as open space classrooms, private schools will give anything a go. Some of these ideas are complete disasters and faze out within a year or two. Public schools have the opportunity to cherry pick ideas that work and steer clear of those grandiose, flawed ones.

 

Parents 

Parents are a vital stakeholder and when you allow parents to exercise their right to choose, you end up with a better system. Whilst it would be nice to give all parents this opportunity, it is still vital to create a system where there is choice available.

The fact that 41% of parents choose to send their child to a private secondary school suggests that choice is appealing and it also suggests that affordability isn’t as big an issue as many maintain.

As many of the private schools are aligned to religious institutions it helps to keep religion more or less out of the public school domain. This is a good thing for public school parents that want to get rid of religious instruction in public schools.

 

Students

The kids gets lost in all debates revolving around school and policy. Funny that! If kids want to go to private schools, and their parents are happy to foot the bill, why shouldn’t they get the chance?

 

Teachers

It is so disappointing that the Teachers Union are tacitly against the existence of private schools. It makes no sense.  Private schools make sure their class sizes are small, which means – more teachers. These teachers also have the opportunity in many cases to be better paid and have more flexible working hours.

Private schools are run differently, which greatly benefits the teacher. Private schools operate on a basis of easily quantifiable priorities – keep the parents happy, create positive word of mouth and help your students achieve. As long as you achieve these principles you know you are achieving. Public schools don’t have such an easily discernible metric for success, so teachers are often more confused about how well they are going. Often public teachers who are achieving those 3 principles will find themselves hassled by bosses and bureaucrats  over trivial and inconsequential things such as the style of planning documents they hand in.

 

Government

There’s a lot of resentment about taxpayers money being used to subsidise fancy rich schools. This subsidy is a brilliant investment. Whilst private schools get as little as $2,000 per student from the Government, public schools get an average of $12,000. The existence of private schools saves the Government over $6Billion from the budget. This is a massive win on their investment.

Meanwhile, that subsidy helps to keep fees at a level that some parents wouldn’t ordinarily afford, giving them the opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. Parents that send their kids to private schools are characterised as rich, but that’s not usually the case. Many forgo family holidays, 4 wheel drives, big screen televisions and Foxtel to give their kids the opportunity to succeed at school. Many take on an extra mortgage and do multiple jobs. These people are heroes, not idiots. Anyone that goes the extra mile for their kids deserves credit.

 

Conclusion

Without private schools, public class sizes would expand, parent dissatisfaction would dramatically increase, many teachers would be out of a job, religion in schools would be ramped up and the government would lose their $6 billion worth of saving that could have been used to raise standards in public schools, public hospitals, raise welfare, increase immigration and assist the disabled.

Yet you want to knock them?

Trump’s Fake News Awards and Its Implications in the Classroom

January 18, 2018

The Trump fake news award sideshow has come and gone, and depending what camp you’re in it was either fabulous or a further indication of the man’s deep psychological issues.

Teachers are now more than ever encouraged to teach analysis of news in the classroom. Teachers are given the job of helping their students to identify fake news and find bias where it exists.

But this is a very problematic area for teachers.

Teachers are not allowed to promote or even subtly convey their own political allegiances. This presents a difficulty. Usually the fine line between fact and fakery is in the eye of the beholder. Someone of the right will not see the bias in a right leaning news story and vice versa.

I believe that whilst it is very important that our students have the tools to identify bias and fake news, we should refrain from pointing out concrete examples.

Give them the skills, but resist at all costs in taking on our own personal political beliefs.

 

Click on the link to read The Teacher Golden Globes

Click on the link to read Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Explaining Hawaii to Young Children

January 14, 2018

 

Twitter is awash with jokes about Hawaii and the missile false alarm.

One can understand why. When a person tries to regroup from a near trauma, they go to comedy to help them manage the shock.

But there is one section of the population that wont want to make light of this episode – young children. The kind that I teach in Primary school.

They wont get the humor and will be perplexed (and often wounded) by the story if it isn’t explained in a discrete and careful manner. The worst thing in the world a parent could do is make light of it or laugh it off. That wont work for children.

The best way to deal with it is to explain that sometimes adults believe things that make no sense. That a missile is never going to hit Hawaii and adults were so surprised by the message that they lost all common sense.

But isn’t that lying?

I feel that this white lie is imperative. Children must have it reinforced that their homes are not going to be pelted with missiles. Not now. Not ever.

Jokes will enable adults to move on.

I worry about the children.

 

Click on the link to read The Death of a Student

Click on the link to read Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

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How Education is Sexist Against Men

January 11, 2018

One of the biggest myths in education is that the lack of male teachers is being addressed.

This is pure rubbish.

Can anyone name me a strategy or policy that seeks to promote or incentivise the career to men?

You can’t? Of course not. None exists!

And for all the talk that there is concern about the lack of male teachers, the numbers tell a totally different story. Statistics clearly show a mark decrease in representation.

Between 1977 and 2016 we see a drop in male representation from 28.5 per cent to 18 per cent in primary schools and from 54 per cent to 40 per cent in high schools, Australia-wide.

Whenever a female gender gap in representation exists, such as in STEM courses at university level, scholarships programs have been instituted in the name of diversity.

But here’s the thing.

It is ILLEGAL for universities to give scholarships to men in areas where they are underrepresented! That’s right, illegal!

How is that fair? How is that not sexist?

Statistics indicate that the disparity will get worse. And who could be surprised.

Nobody seems to care!

 

 

Click on the link to read The Normalisation of the Stigma Against Male Teachers

Click on the link to read And You Say You Want Male Teachers!

Click on the link to read A Male Teacher Drought or a Great Teacher Drought?

Click on the link to read Double Standards on Gender When it Comes to Teaching

The App That Successfully Tackles Schoolyard Bullying

January 8, 2018

Good on you Natalie Hampton on your initiative. It takes some courage to take a painful situation and use it to improve the world.

How fabulous is this app!

 

“I was ostracized by everyone. I ate lunch alone every day. I was pushed into lockers. I was sent threatening emails,” said high school senior Natalie Hampton of California. “I was physically attacked three times in two weeks and I came home sobbing with bleeding red scratch marks.”

She eventually switched schools, but the memories of those years of torment stuck with her.

“So many people walked back and forth in front of my table and all I wanted to hear was ‘hey are you OK? Come sit with us,'” Natalie said.

Those four words, “come sit with us,” sparked an idea and eventually an app.

“If you go to the search tab, it gives you a whole list of the lunches that you can join in your school without any fear of rejection,” Natalie said.

She created the “Sit With Us” app — free to download, private to use. It connects kids in need of company with welcoming students.

The app now has over 100,000 users in eight different countries, giving Natalie a megaphone for her message.

She’s become an outspoken leader of the anti-bullying movement. She speaks at conferences and even gave a TED Talk.

The app, and its message to be inclusive, is inspiring other students like eighth grader Lola Clark. She created a “Sit With Us” club at her school since they don’t allow cellphones.

 

 

Click on the link to read There’s More Effective Methods than Simply Punishing Bullies

Click on the link to read The Best Thing We can Teach Our Students is to Love

Click on the link to read Bullying Victim Teaches His Attackers a Lesson!

Click on the link to read Horrific Bullying Attack Caught on Video

The Teacher Golden Globes

January 8, 2018

The nominations are in for the following awards:

 

Most Discrete Check of Facebook During a Lesson

Most Overdone Hanging Classroom Display

Best Aide in a Slightly More than Supportive Role

The Chiropractic Award for Longest Mat Session

Best Sledge Against a Photocopier with a Paper Jam

Most Food Ingested in a 2-Minute Lunch Break

Best Job of Living Just Above the Poverty Line

Acting award for the Teacher who Best Pretends to be Awake During a Professional Development Session

Most Coffee Consumed During a School Day

Biggest Purchase of Stationery by a Teacher Using Their Own Money

Most Repetition of a Basic Instruction

Most Creative Use of the 1-Metre Ruler

 

 

Click on the link to read Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Click on the link to read Every Good Teacher Should be Allowed to Make a Mistake

Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

January 7, 2018

I cannot believe how stupid some policy makers are. Banning students from having best friends? Really?

I thought schools were supposed to prepare children for the real world.

Imagine if schools banned teachers from mixing with their favourite colleagues! Because don’t think for a second that teachers don’t operate in cliques just like their students do. Our students see double standards from a mile away, and any rule which prevents them from doing normal, everyday things that their teachers do, irks them no end.

The way to look after isolated and lonely students is not to save them by draconian laws that reduce the school experience for others. It is to invest as teachers in building their self-esteem and promoting them to the rest of the school community. You don’t need to impose bans to help these students. You just need to care enough about them to help them find their place in the school.

 

This idea sucks:

Members of the royal family aren’t often told what they can and can’t do. But just a few days into his first year of school, 4-year-old Prince George already faces a mandate: No best friends allowed.

Thomas’s Battersea, the school George attends, bans kids from having best friends, Marie Claire reports. Instead, teachers encourage all students to form bonds with one another to avoid creating feelings of exclusions among those without best friends.

Jane Moore, a parent whose child attends the school, explained the idea on a recent episode of the British talk show “Loose Women.” “There’s a policy,” she said, “that if your child is having a party — unless every child is invited — you don’t give out the invites in class.”

The trend of banning best friends has been growing for several years, and it’s spread beyond European borders to American schools as well.

 

Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Click on the link to read Every Good Teacher Should be Allowed to Make a Mistake

Click on the link to read Girls Banned From Running at Sporting Events


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