No Worries: Another Look at “Cold-Calling” in the Classroom

In a new article in Parade, “How to Build a Better Teacher,” education journalist Elizabeth Green describes the five teaching strategies that may have the greatest impact on student learning. One of these strategies touches on an old debate that deserves to be revisited: “cold-calling,” or calling on students whether or not they have their hands raised: “The goal is to ­extract the maximum possible mileage from each question. By ­introducing the possibility that anyone can be asked to speak at any time, teachers ­decrease the chances their students will tune out.”

The benefits of cold-calling are well-supported by research, and it’s hard to argue with its many benefits. But who doesn’t dread being called on out of the blue? Continue reading

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

Good Questions: Behavior Plans, Part 2

This is the second part of my two-part answer to Christine’s question about behavior plans and rewards.  Part 1 discussed whole-class reward systems, and now we’re on to individual behavior plans.

I use behavior plans frequently, starting around the second week of school.  Today, I’ll share three variations, but each of the plans I use is designed to do the same thing: to help students make better choices in the classroom.  Each individual student’s goals are different, but might be to focus better, to put more effective effort into their work, to work cooperatively with classmates, or to follow certain norms for classroom behavior. 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