Good Questions: How do you motivate students?

I was recently asked how I motivate my students.  Immediately, I thought, what don’t I do to motivate students?  I do everything short of standing on my head… no, wait a minute — I do that too, along with cartwheels, Captain’s Coming, Indian dances, and “old school” 4-Square.

Motivating students is at the very heart of being an effective teacher.  It’s a huge topic that encompasses just about everything we do, so let’s break it down. Continue reading


When Kids Make Mistakes

I noticed the doodle around 9:30.  Three big rings of pencil on one of the kids’ tables that weren’t there when school started an hour ago.  I had one student who sat at that table and had been having a tough time that morning, so I figured it might have been him.  Another teacher who works in my classroom asked him if he had made the marks, and he said no.

When I think back to being a kid, I have sharp memories just like this.  Of times when I was accused of something and, on impulse, lied.  That first denial, that tiniest, littlest lie, slips out so quickly.  And before you know it, you’ve planted your feet on the ground.  You’ve told a lie, and now you have to stick by it or else be found out as the person who did the wrong thing and then lied about it. Continue reading

Why It’s Important to Apologize to Children

It happens to the best of us.  You are normally a very patient person.  Your classroom is a joyful, well structured place where the room hums with happy learning.  But today has been a long day.  Today, your normal strategies haven’t worked.  Perhaps all your children stayed up late to watch the Red Sox game and they brought Halloween candy for snack.  Or you have a cold and your head pounds and your throat hurts, and you’ve been interrupted One. Too. Many. Times.

And if you’ve never felt this way, you’ve never been an elementary school teacher.  Simple as that.  So if you are reading this on one of those days, you are in good company.  It’s gonna be ok. Continue reading

Good Questions: Behavior Plans, Part 1

This post is for Christine, my smart, thoughtful, (and yes, only) regular commenter.

In response to my post, “What’s Worth Rewarding?” Christine wrote, “I wonder about the place that extrinsic rewards have in my classroom, especially around behavior.  Can you share ways that you use reward systems specifically for behavior (either individual or whole group)?”

Good question!  Children’s behavior in school is kind of magical.  Whatever patterns they follow at home, when children walk into school, they align to a whole different set of routines and expectations.  In well-run classrooms, there is an esprit de corps, a group desire to work together to accomplish a shared goal.

So how do you establish this kind of classroom?

First, let’s talk intrinsic rewards.  Good behavior starts with good teaching. Continue reading