Category Archives: Helping Readers

Three Classroom Management Tips for New Teachers

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a university professor to speak to a group of student teachers on classroom management.  The topic has been on my mind a ton lately, primarily because I know of several colleagues who are struggling with managing behaviors in their classrooms.


So I figured I’d share three tips for managing classrooms that have always worked for me:

Good classroom management starts by carefully structuring your classroom and your activities:  One lesson that I’ve learned the hard way over the course of my career is that conflict and behavior problems are JUST as often a function of mistakes that I make as they are a function of the choices being made by the students in my classroom.

Instead of carefully considering personalities when building my seating chart, I’ve created groups with students who have a history of clashing with one another and conflict happens.  Instead of making multiple copies of a classroom task, I’ve expected kids who are still learning about cooperation to share important resources or lab supplies and conflict happens.  Instead of creating engaging activities to fill unstructured time, I’ve given kids tasks that aren’t all that interesting and conflict happens.

So instead of questioning the choices of your students in moments where your classroom feels like it is out of control or where conflict has occurred between kids, start questioning your own choices.  What could YOU have done to avoid those conflicts to begin with.  Good classroom management requires being proactive, not reactive.

Good classroom management starts by building positive relationships with the kids who frustrate you the most:  Here’s two simple truths:  First, most of the classroom management issues that you deal with are probably related to the actions of a small handful of students.  Second, you probably don’t enjoy those students very much.  In fact, you probably have no patience for them at all — or you probably dread seeing them each day because you know that the chances of drama or conflict are high.

But here’s the thing:  Those are the EXACT kids that you need to build positive relationships with.  Here’s why:  You don’t manage behaviors with rules and consequences.  You manage behaviors with relationships.  If a frustrating kid knows that you love and appreciate them, they are far more likely to cooperate with you when you DO have to correct his behaviors or choices.

What does that mean for you as a teacher?  Find the most frustrating students in your classroom.  Say hello to them when they walk in the room.  Celebrate them when they make it through an entire lesson without conflict.  Give them a small treat or privilege whenever they’ve done something deserving of recognition.  Call on them when you know that they have the right answers to your questions — and celebrate their answers publicly in front of their peers to prove to everyone that you see the value of “those kids” too.

Doing so builds trust  — and trust is the real lever towards changing behaviors in the long run.  Doing so also will reframe your own thinking about frustrating kids.  Instead of remembering every bad thing “that kid” has ever done to disrupt your classroom, you will start to see him/her as something more than their negative behaviors — which will help you to be less reactionary the next time that child misbehaves.

Good classroom management depends on your willingness to assume good intentions of every student — including those who frustrate you:  One of the things that I’ve been wrestling with this year is my own reactions to the frustrating kids on our hallway.  I catch myself jumping to conclusions immediately about the reasons for their every action based on nothing more than assumptions that I’ve made in the moment — and my assumptions are almost always negative.

Those negative assumptions are not only incomplete, they are also almost always inaccurate.  The result:  I catch myself punishing kids without fully understanding the entirety of a situation.

That’s unproductive, y’all.  Your assumptions shouldn’t be guiding your decisions when dealing with frustrating kids because when you are frustrated, your assumptions aren’t all that objective.

To address this weakness in my own practice, I’ve stolen a strategy from Crucial Conversations:  When I see a student behaving in a way that surprises me, I ask myself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act this way?”

Here are some examples:  If I see a student shout at another child, I ask myself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act this way?”  If I see a student with a phone out in a space where they aren’t supposed to have their phones out, I ask myself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act this way?”  If I see two students bickering over something that happened in class, I ask myself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act this way?”

By doing so, I’m reminding myself that no child comes to school WANTING to get in trouble — and that while there may be no excuse for poor choices, there are OFTEN lots of reasonable, rational explanations for those exact same choices.  By getting curious instead of furious about a student’s behavior — an argument made in this fantastic Edutopia article — I’m far more likely to build a healthy relationship with my frustrating students AND to spot reasons for poor choices that can be addressed in a systematic and deliberate way.

Does any of this make sense?  

I guess what I am arguing with all three of these suggestions is that a frustrating child’s behavior in our rooms might just be an even better reflection of our relationship with that child or the choices that we are making as teachers than they are a reflection of who that child is as a person.

Our job is to do more than “manage behaviors.”  Our job is to take professional responsibility for the impact that OUR choices and actions are having on the behavior of the frustrating students in our classrooms.



Related Radical Reads:

Is Your School a “Rules First” or a “Relationships First” Community?

Writing Positive Notes to My Students is the BEST Way to Start My Day.

Second Guessing My Kids of Color


Need a Form for Analyzing CFA Data? Try This One.

One of the differences between teachers working in a traditional school and teachers working in a professional learning community is that teachers in a PLC engage in regular cycles of inquiry, investigating their practice together to identify and amplify instructional strategies that work for kids.

Fab Lentz

That “inquiry around practice” is centered around four basic questions that the teachers on teams answer together:  What do we want kids to know and be able to do?   How will we assess student progress towards mastering the skills we identify as essential?  What will we do for students who haven’t mastered the skills that we identified as essential?  And what will we do for students who are working beyond the skills that we identified as essential.

There’s nothing particularly intimidating about this work.  In fact, many teachers would argue that answering those four key questions has always been a part of what good teachers do.

But in order to have a long term impact on both student mastery and teacher practice, teams have to be deliberate about documenting what they are learning.

Without a long term record of the outcomes of each cycle of collaborative inquiry, lessons learned are simply lost over time.

To be deliberate, my learning team developed and then started using this form when analyzing common formative assessment results last year.  We dug it primarily because it forced us to move beyond simply making observations from the data sets that we were collecting.  It  also required us to define the next steps that we were going to take as a result of the observations that we were making together.

Here’s a sample of what a completed form looks like.

There’s a problem in our form, though.  Can you spot it?

While we are carefully documenting what WE are learning from the data sets that we collect, the form that we developed does nothing to encourage us to identify what individual STUDENTS are learning connected to the concepts that we are trying to teach.

That’s a problem, y’all.  If we are committed to the notion that every student should master the standards that we identified as essential, we MUST track progress by both student and standard.  Having a general idea of the patterns that we are spotting in our data sets can help us as individual teachers to improve our practice, but until we have specific lists detailing which students have mastered the essentials and which students are struggling to master the essentials, it is impossible to move forward in a systematic way.

So we’ve been tinkering with a revised form lately.  Check it out here.  

Did you see the chart we added onto the second page of the form?  It’s an adaptation of a form that we pulled from Common Formative Assessment — a fantastic book written by Chris Jakicic and Kim Bailey.

What we love about the new chart is that it forces us to sort our students into four different categories ranging from “This student hasn’t yet acquired the foundational skills/ideas necessary to master these concepts” to “This student has demonstrated that they are working beyond your grade level expectations and are in need of additional challenge.”

The reason that “sorting” of students is important is because each of those groups of students are in need of different levels of support/intervention.  While it is often easy for teams to name the students who haven’t mastered essential outcomes — most teachers can probably generate those lists before ever even giving an assessment — focused, timely intervention depends on understanding WHY a student hasn’t mastered essential outcomes yet.

Our new form forces us to think about that in advance.

Does this make any sense to you?  More importantly, does YOUR team need a new system for documenting what you are learning from the assessments that you are giving?


Related Radical Reads:

Common Formative Assessment is About Improving INSTRUCTION.

Ten Tips for Writing Common Formative Assessments




More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit here on the Radical begging people to STOP pushing the notion of building an audience as the primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces.

My argument was a simple one:  When we push audience as a primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces, we forget that MOST participants in social spaces will never build significant audiences — and if they’ve heard people preach about audience as a primary reason for writing and sharing, they are bound to feel like failures.

That’s when Bob Schuetz — a longtime Radical reader and fantastic thinker — stopped by to push back.  

Kyle Glenn

Here’s a part of what Bob wrote:

Audience causes us to raise our game, take pride in what we share.

You speak eloquently because an audience is listening. You post and tweet in the hopes it makes a difference to someone besides yourself.

Normally I dig your riffs, however in this rare case, I can’t agree with your title or premise.

I am part of your audience, and we do matter.

In a lot of ways, Bob (and Kyle Hamstra — who’s thoughts on audience sparked this conversation) is right:  I do write and think and share differently because I know an audience is listening.

I proofread more than I would otherwise because I know an audience is listening.  I am also far more reasoned — “tempered” — in my positions online than I am in person.  I don’t want to put my name on a piece that is riddled with grammatical errors or a piece that fails to consider multiple viewpoints because I know that what I create becomes a permanent representation of who I am that others will be able to find forever on the web.

Those are tangible benefits of knowing that I am writing and sharing for an audience — and tangible examples of how having an audience changes everything for me.

The BEST example of how audiences change everything, however, is Bob’s comment — and this subsequent post — to begin with.

Because I shared publicly and because Bob took the time to push against my thinking, I’m sitting here this morning reflecting on and revising what I believe about the role of audience in the lives of those of us who write and share on the web.

That intellectual give and take between writers and readers is where the REAL potential rests in a “Web 2.0” world.  Before comment sections and social spaces, the thoughts of writers went unchallenged by readers.  Today, challenge CAN be the norm rather than the exception to the rule — and challenge is the “refining fire” that ideas must pass through in order to be fully polished.

But here’s the thing:  That intellectual give and take is painfully absent from today’s comment sections and social spaces.

Need proof?

Find your favorite blog right now.  Click on five posts.  How many comments do you find?  More specifically, how many comments challenge the central argument of the author?  Do the same thing with a few of the people that you follow in Twitter.  Check out their Tweets and Replies.  Chances are that you’ll see a TON of simple sharing and maybe a bunch of affirmation — “Great post!” or “Loved this!” or “Brilliant ideas!” — but challenge and true discourse will be nonexistent.

Need MORE proof?

When was the last time YOU left a comment challenging the thinking of a blogger or content shared by someone you follow in social spaces? 

I’ll bet the answer is the same:  You do a lot of reading in social spaces, but you rarely comment — and when you DO respond to the thinking of the people you are learning alongside, those comments tend to celebrate rather than challenge the authors.

Now, I’m not judging you.  People can use social spaces in any way that they want to.  It’s not for me to decide whether comments that challenge should be a core expectation of the people who are living intellectual lives online.

But we’ve got to stop telling people who are new to social spaces about the “power of audience” because the truth is that most of today’s audiences are muted at best, choosing consumption over participation in nine conversations out of ten.

Now, if you’ve read this far and you are STILL passionate about the power of an audience, here are a few tips for building one:

(1). Bring Your OWN Audience:  When people talk about “the power of audience,” they are generally referring to the hundreds of thousands of teachers all over the globe who are blogging and sharing in social spaces.  We stand in awe every time that we make a connection with someone a thousand miles away.

And don’t get me wrong:  That IS pretty darn cool.

But the most powerful members of your audience are those people that you ALREADY have an intellectual relationship with.  Maybe they are folks in your school that you have lunch with every day.  Maybe they are buddies from other schools in your district that you meet for beers a few times a month.  Maybe they are colleagues that you hang with once per year at teaching conferences around the country.

Those are the people who are the most likely to stop by your blog or respond to your Tweets and challenge your thinking — so instead of trying to build a huge audience of strangers, concentrate on building a small audience of peers.

(2). Be a Participating Member of Someone Else’s Audience:  The funny part of this whole conversation to me is that people in today’s social spaces are hell-bent on building their own audiences, and yet few recognize the importance of being participating members of someone else’s audience.  I see that as incredibly selfish.  We want the benefits that come along with having an audience without willingly passing those same benefits along to others.

What does that mean for you?

Start commenting on the work of others.  Start responding to people’s posts in Twitter.  Let people know that you are listening and learning from them.  Show gratitude for the time that they put into thinking and sharing transparently with others.  Provide challenge to their core ideas — and then push those ideas out through your networks.

Not only will you give someone else the intellectual benefits that you want for yourself, chances are that you’ll gain a new member of your own audience.

Do unto others, right?

(3). Draw attention to the ideas of your audience:  I want you to think about my buddy Bob for a minute.  He took his own time to read my original bit on audience.  Then, he took even more of his own time to craft a reply that challenged my thinking and articulated concepts that I hadn’t considered. Instead of spending that same time on his own growth, he was making an investment in me and in our intellectual relationship.

That matters, y’all — and I need to respect that investment in some way.  So I decided to sit down this morning and respond to his thinking here in a new post on my blog.  Not only will that give Bob’s thinking some of the attention that it deserves, it shows him that I’m listening — and that the time he spent challenging me really did have value because it led to a longer conversation.

The result:  Bob is more likely to comment on another post at some point in the future.

Does any of this make sense?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that building a big audience feels pretty pointless to me.  Given the option to have thousands of followers who I rarely interact with or ten readers who regularly challenge my thinking, I’d take the active audience any day because my goal in spaces like this is to learn — not to be recognized.



Related Radical Reads:

Audience Doesn’t Matter

Comment More.  Like Less.

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls.


Tutorials on Blogging, Managing Bookmarks, and Sharing to Social Streams.

Over the last few days, I’ve had the incredible honor to learn alongside the remarkable people that serve as Solution Tree PLC Associates.  These are the folks who are helping schools to improve results for students through collaboration.

One of the things I was asked to speak about is the role that technology plays in my own reflection and writing. 

To facilitate that work, I made a series of 2-4 minute tutorials this morning that attempt to capture some of my writing and reflection routines.  Thought you might dig seeing those tutorials, too, even though they were created for a very specific audience:

Tutorials on Blogging: 

These tutorials cover everything from the reasons that I think every practitioner should be blogging (hint: it’s about reflection) to how to find a blog service (hint: use WordPress).

When you are done watching them, you should have enough know-how to create your blog and make a post!

Tutorial 1:  Why Blog

Tutorial 2: Finding a Blog Service

Tutorial 3:  Creating a Post in a Blog Service


Tutorials on Using Pocket to Organize Potential Blog Topics:

Let’s face it:  The reason most people don’t write more regularly is because they don’t think they have anything to write about.  But here’s the thing:  We are all CONSTANTLY reading, aren’t we?  And the bits that we read can become potential blog topics in no time.  We just have to organize them in a way that we can find them later when we feel stuck.  I use Pocket —  a service introduced in the tutorials below — to do that work.

When you are done watching them, you’ll know how to bookmark and tag things that you are reading online, how to find those bookmarks later, and how Pocket can help you to quickly find information related to your own interests and areas of study.

Tutorial 1:  Introduction to Pocket

Tutorial 2: Managing your Pocket Bookmarks

Tutorial 3: Exploring Popular and Related Bookmarks in Pocket


Tutorials on Sharing Content to Audiences using Buffer:

One of the easiest ways to add value to your audiences — whether they are people that you work with on a regular basis or people that have been inspired by you somewhere in the past — is to share both the content that you are creating and the content that you are consuming with them.  By sharing that content, you are helping people to access important ideas without having to do a lot of work.

The good news is that sharing important content is a BREEZE as long as you use a service like Buffer — which allows you to schedule posts to all of your important social spaces in advance.

By the time you are done watching the tutorials below, you’ll know how to share posts in Buffer, how to see some simple analytics on the posts you share through Buffer, and how Buffer can help you to find new content that is worth both consuming and then sharing back out to your audiences.

Tutorial 1: Introduction to Buffer (and Why Your Finds Matter to Your Audiences)

Tutorial 2: Adding New Finds to Your Buffer Queue

Tutorial 3: Managing Your Buffer Posting Schedule

Tutorial 4: Using the Paid Features in Buffer to Maximize your Reading and Sharing

Hope this helps you to get started!  And let me know if you have any questions.  


Tool Review: #GoogleExpeditions Virtual Reality App

I have an admission to make:  After a chance to experiment with Google Expeditions in class this week,  I am FINALLY convinced that virtual reality applications have a place in schools.

For those of you just hearing about Google Expeditions, it is a new app that uses Google Cardboard and stunning panoramic photography to take students on virtual reality tours of tons of interesting places.  Here’s a short video from Google introducing the product:

Neat, right?

The app hasn’t been officially released yet, but Google Expedition Team Members are traveling around the country bringing the technology to schools to get feedback from teachers and students before it goes live.  Our school was chosen for a visit this week — and I had the chance to bring two classes of kids down to kick the tires on the tool.

I went into the experience more than a little skeptical.

I’ve always seen virtual reality as a fringe technology that wouldn’t make teaching and learning any better and virtual reality fanboys as people who cared more about technology than they did teaching and learning.  In fact, if you asked me last week, I would have told you that virtual reality tools and trends would have had little to no chance of making their way into the #edtech mainstream.

But twenty minutes into my first Google Expeditions enhanced lesson had me convinced enough to start putting the squeeze on my principal to buy a set of Cardboards and teacher tablets for our grade level.

Here’s why:

Google has created literally THOUSANDS of different Expedition experiences that you can immerse your students in.

I chose to take my students to Antarctica, where we looked at penguin colonies, leopard seals, and Ernest Shackleton’s explorations.  We also traveled to the Rain forest and coral reefs.  The Expeditions catalog also includes TONS of other interesting destinations, ranging from Mars to the Moon to Gettysburg, the Ann Frank House and the Great Wall of China.

Each expedition includes background information for teachers taking students on tours.

As my students looked through Google Cardboards at the virtual worlds that I took them to, I was using a tablet to guide their experiences — and my view of each virtual world included interesting content flags that I could click on, learn more about, and then introduce to my students.  If I clicked on a content flag, students saw an arrow on their VR screens that pointed them to the location that I wanted them to see.

That made the Expeditions experience equal parts self exploration and teacher direction.   My kids discovered things that they wanted to study and learn more about all by themselves while working through the virtual world they’d entered AND I was able to point them to things that I wanted them to notice because they were tied to our required curriculum.

The entire experience was easy and the technology worked flawlessly.

Outside of a 20-minute introduction to the teacher tablets and Google Cardboards, I had no professional development at all on using Expeditions and my students had no previous experience with VR in a school setting, yet we had NO troubles trying to figure things out at all.  Pulling up new destinations, finding content tags and pointing students to interesting content within a VR tour was incredibly intuitive and fluid for me — and working with the Cardboards to explore was second-nature to my students.  In many ways, it’s hard to believe that Expeditions is still in Beta given how smooth the experience was.

But most importantly, Google Expeditions gave me the chance to literally immerse my students in places that are a part of our required curriculum.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying biomes in class.  As a part of that study, we did a simple research project.  Students chose a biome and then used books and the web to answer research questions about that biome.  While researching, they saw pictures of the biome, watched videos about the biome, and read tons of text about the biome.

Google Expeditions, however, made all of that research come alive for my kids.  They felt like they were standing in the middle of the Savannah or the Tundra or the Taiga instead of just reading about it.  “Collecting facts” and “answering questions” became an exploration and observation game — and kids DIG exploration and observation.  Learning through VR became a lesson in discovery as kids had to figure out what they were looking at and what it could teach them about the biome that they were standing in.

Long story short:  Google Expeditions is going to be amazing.

Knowing that I can genuinely surround my kids with the content and places that we are studying using nothing more than a free app, Google Cardboards and some cheap Android tablets/devices brings new meaning to the notion of “breaking down the walls of our classrooms.”



Related Radical Reads:

Tool Review: Screencastify

Tool Review:  Zaption makes Differentiation Doable

Tool Review:  Using Remind to Introduce Nonfiction to Students