Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I've been framed! - By Lindell Long

The criminal declares, "I've been framed."  The word has other uses besides planting evidence to incriminate others. We can frame a picture or frame a house. A frame can give structure to build upon. Have you thought about framing a sentence? 

Many of my ESOL students need a framework to form a proper sentence, especially in the early stages of English acquisition. The order of our words within sentences is often different from the order of words in sentences in a student's home language and a frame is an easy support for helping the student express himself.

Many times a student is required to write about cause and effect. This assignment could be for science, health or a literature assignment.
Giving the student a framework helps flesh out the sentence so the student can concentrate on the words that make a cause and effect sentence.

I was ____(sick)__________so I ____(stayed home)___.
I feel ____(sick)___because____(I ate a lot of candy)____. 
The ___boy_____ did/did not ____pass___ because he did/did not study.
In order to ____(win)_, you might have to ___(train harder)_______.
Because of _( high winds)__,the roof came off during the ________

The words inside the brackets are examples of words students might use to fill in the blanks – the framework. Notice that the sentences are all framed to provide cause and effect examples.

Frames can be used in any subject. Think of social studies and the causes and effects of war. Frames help express the results of science experiments or the motives for the protagonist and antagonist and the results of their actions. Frames are very versatile.  

To aid an ESOL student or any struggling student, a word bank could be added to the sheet with the terms of the lesson.

Lindell Long teaches ESOL at Clover Middle and High Schools in Clover, South Carolina, a position she’s held for the last 18 years. She’s married with 4 children and so many pets her family fears she’ll bring home a stray yak one day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

More from Teaching to Change Lives - Andy Jobson

Howard Hendricks identifies seven laws that are instrumental in Teaching to Change Lives.  The “Law of the Student” was particularly compelling to me—Hendricks says, “What’s important is not what you do as a teacher, but what the learners do as a result of what you do.”  In other words, we can work for hours and expend inordinate amounts of energy to put together an exciting lesson plan, but in the final analysis we must ask, have my students gained mastery of the material?  Are they behaving or thinking differently as a result of the lesson? Hendricks draws heavily from John Milton Gregory’s 19th century work, The Seven Laws of Teaching, as he does here:  “The true function of the teacher is to create the most favorable conditions for self-learning (emphasis added)…. True teaching is not that which gives knowledge, but that which stimulates pupils to gain it.”  “Tell the reader nothing—and do nothing for him—that he can learn or do for himself,” says Hendricks.

This is a real challenge for me.  I encounter students all the time who have decided that the trick to school is to figure out what the teacher wants to hear, to memorize it in the short term (and regurgitate it on the test), and then to dump the material from their memory and move on to the next unit.  I sometimes find myself slipping into this trap because the alternative is so hard, but I think the alternative is essential.  What should we be doing?

1)    Teaching our students to think.  This reminds me of the importance of practicing what I preach—in other words, that I need to spend time in thoughtful reflection sorting through ideas and considering consequences.  I came late to the study of economics, but one thing I love is the analysis of choices and outcomes.

2)    Teaching our students to learn.  This means answering questions with more questions; it means delighting in the pursuit of new information (and perhaps occasionally treating a rather basic idea as the exciting progress it is for a young learner in your field—get excited about their learning!).  Are we using class time to practice what active reading looks like?  Are we modeling how to address a text with questions and challenges rather than simply absorbing the content?  Remember, as Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book.”  Celebrate the discoveries of your students without insisting on one right answer every time.

3)    Teaching our students how to work.   I can’t do better than Hendricks here:  “Never forget that your task is to develop people who are self-directed, who are disciplined…. Our job is not to give quick and easy answers, patent-medicine solutions that never work in the realities of life.”  If our students don’t leave with some head-scratching, we probably haven’t challenged them enough.  My friend Jon once said about teaching advanced math, “If you’re confused—good!  If you’re not confused—not so good!  Do you think my dogs would be confused if they were sitting where you’re sitting?  No—because all they’re thinking about is their next meal!”

Hendricks finishes thus:  Failure is an essential part of the learning process.  We learn more through failure than we do through success if we’re willing to do so.  As we pursue these goals, perhaps we need to remember this last point for ourselves—but don’t give up!  The goal is too important.

 What else do you think is critical for us to do as educators?

An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Solitude and Leadership by Andy Jobson

In an earlier blog I referenced the importance of reflecting on what you read and on teaching students to think.  There is an excellent essay on these issues entitled “Solitude and Leadership” . It’s an address given to a plebe class at West Point (2009) by William Deresiewicz.  While I think you should read the whole thing, I will give you some of the details to pique your interest.

Deresiewicz has some harsh words for many of our “best and brightest” who have risen high by being “world-class hoop jumpers” or “excellent sheep.”  They can pass tests and achieve goals, but they can’t think original thoughts.  So Deresiewicz  has some advice about teaching young people how to think.

1)    Avoid multitasking.  He says, and I agree, “Multitasking… is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think.”  We have to develop our ability to concentrate on something long enough to develop an idea about it, and this ability is stunted when we are constantly distracted by an email, or a phone call, or a text, or whatever else comes along.  Find something to focus on- even manual labor can be a means to this if it enables you to free your mind to wander and explore new ideas.

2)    Read books—not tweets, or wall posts, or even magazine articles, although the latter can be useful.  Reading books forces you to concentrate on an argument for longer than a few seconds or minutes.  Authors of books have also generally spent a lot more time thinking about what they want to say and how to say it.  Old books are particularly useful because they engage us in the thinking of another time; we are forced to examine our assumptions through another lens.

3)    Develop some close friendships—the “deep friendship of intimate conversation.”  Finding someone you can bare your soul to with “doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask” allows you to think through such difficult issues.

These are all helpful to me as a teacher, but I also ask my seniors to read this essay and consider how it applies to their lives.  Perhaps your students will find it useful as well.

What do you think? Do you think multitasking is helpful or harmful? What about the concept of reading books instead of shorter pieces?

An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Life Before (and After) izzit by James Buchanan

As a teacher of economics, it’s sometimes difficult to get the conversation started on topics like freedom, free markets and taxation. Before I found izzit.org, the reality was hard: my students didn’t really want to know about this stuff. Back then, good economics questions usually came from discussing the lunch menu and perhaps other choices they might face that day.

As I continued my relationship with izzit.org (and as my video library expanded), so did the interest from my class. In 2008-09, I showed them “Freedom’s Sound,” which tells the story of the Estonia Piano Company after communism’s fall. Students began to ask astonishing questions.

How could such a little country rise from the depths of communism into a flourishing economy? A gem of Europe in just a decade? They wanted to know. That question led to an analysis of the country’s economic policy, which led to questions about taxation issues there, as well as at home…

What? I was stunned. Students formerly interested only in the lunch menu were now participating in a debate about state and federal tax law!

In 2009-10 I looked forward to using the video again--this time in hopes of steering the students down the path of a more efficient taxation policy debate. Well that didn’t happen. Now they wanted to know how a small country they never heard of could be doing so well, while the US was about to implode due to a financial housing crisis. Was it capitalism’s fault? Still, I saw this as an opportunity.

I jumped at the chance to have them investigate all of the culprits involved in the financial crisis. As the students began to ask better questions, our investigation led to the 30-year evolution of a law passed by government officials back in the 1970’s. This revelation led many to an understanding of the importance of limited government, as well as how laws passed by our elected officials can create incentives for businesses and individuals to act recklessly. My former “lunch menu questioners” were now delving into issues that they would soon inherit as adults. They were becoming true American citizens--asking tough questions about our financial system. 

There are so many other stories I could share with you. From watching “UnstoppableSolar Cycles” and discussing pending cap and trade legislation, to wrestling day to day with issues offered via izzit’s Current Events service – I could go on. My contact with izzit.org even led to the fulfillment of a life long dream of mine: to meet Nobel Laureate James Buchanan. My space is limited. Suffice it to say “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

I consider izzit.org and their products as my side kick. They set up the debate, get my students warmed up, and all I have to do is step in and guide the inquiry to new heights. So it is with my deepest and most sincere convictions that I urge each and every teacher that reads this message, to take advantage of everything this organization has to offer.