How to Talk so Kids can Learn at Home and School

I recently read How to Talk so Kids can Learn at Home and School by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This book provides insightful examples and strategies on how teachers can resolve communication conflicts that will leave the student empowered rather than powerless and ashamed. According to the authors, there ‘is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right. How do we help them feel right? By accepting their feelings’ (p.23). As educators, we need to strive to cultivate an environment that encourage students, invite cooperation, and build natural desire to learn. I really enjoyed chapter 4 – Solving Problems Together: Six Steps That Engage Children’s Creativity and Commitment. This chapter provides teachers a step-by-step strategy to create a community of learners. By establishing this community, students will feel empowered and it will establish a safe space where each child is valued. Below are the six steps to create this community:

  • Listen to your students’ feelings and needs.
  • Summarize their point of view.
  • Express your feelings and needs
  • Invite the class to brainstorm with you to find a solution.
  • Write down all ideas – without evaluating.
  • Together decide which ideas we plan to use and how we plan to implement them.

By reframing conversations that focus on solutions rather than problems, teachers guide students to desirable behaviours that empower them. Student-teacher conversations will nourish a respectful learning environment where both the teacher and students can flourish. Moreover, instead of evaluating what a student has done, you should describe it. For example, when a student succeeds at an assignment, task or activity, rather than evaluating using words such as ‘good job’, etc. describe what the student did correctly and how they succeeded. This encourages the student to strive in learning, and builds their confidence. Furthermore, the authors assert that teachers should not label academic ability (above average, mediocre, brilliant, etc.) but rather every child needs to be seen as a learner and encouraged to experience the joy of intellectual discovery and the satisfaction of making progress – however slow or fast’ (p.212). The essence of teaching is the relationships we develop with our students, and language is a powerful tool to cultivate these relationships. As this quote from the book illustrates – ‘the difference between the words that demoralize and those that give courage; between the words that trigger confrontation and those that invite cooperation; between the words that make it impossible for a child to think or concentrate and the words that free the natural desire to learn’. To end, I am going to leave with a quote to why this book is an essential read for teachers:

“As teachers our goal is greater than just passing on facts and information. If we want our students to be caring human beings, then we need to respond to them in caring ways. If we value our children’s dignity, then we need to model methods that affirm their dignity. If we want to send out into the world young people who respect themselves and respect others, then we need to begin by respecting them. And we can’t do that unless we show respect for what it is they feel.”

Extra Curricular Activity – Floor Hockey

My favourite extra curricular activity this school year was the floor hockey tournament. It was my favourite because the kids really enjoyed it. I mean really, really, really enjoyed it! The kids showed enthusiasm, and the staff shared their enthusiasm (Canadians love hockey!). On game days, the excitement was palpable in the school – students were discussing the game, teachers and students were wishing players good-luck, and players were strategizing. It was great to see the school come together; it fostered a community-like atmosphere and increased school morale. Extra curricular activities are vital because it creates positive school environments.

How To Be An Effective Teacher: The First Days of School

My first blog post will be the book that helped me in my first year. Upon hearing I will be teaching my first classroom and be carrying the precarious title of ‘first-year teacher’, I researched which book will help me prepare the school year. The feedback I received from teachers were to read, How to be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School by Harry Wong. Below, I write a few passages I believe helped me prepare for my first year.

  • “Effective teachers do not ask all the questions at the end of the discussion, class period, video, chapter, or lecture. The effective teacher who wants high-level comprehension intersperses questions throughout all class activities” (p.21). For instance, if you are watching a video, stop the video frequently and ask questions and hold discussions. Research indicates this is more effective compared to asking questions at the end of the video.
  • Research on Improving Student Achievement (p.31):
    • Aligned Time on Task: Students who are actively focused on educational goals do best in mastering the subject matter.
    • Cooperative learning: Students in small, self-instructing groups support and increase one anther’s learning.
    • Extensive Reading: Extensive reading, both inside and outside of school, result in substantial growth in vocabulary, comprehension abilities, and information base of students.
    • Wait Time: Pausing after asking a question in the classroom results in increase in achievement.
  • Warmly welcome students to school everyday.
  • High expectations have to do with attitude and behaviour. Effective teachers are caring, warm and compassionate people.
  • “The most effective classes are those where the students are self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-responsible learners.” (p.97).
  • “You will greatly increase the chance that school will start successfully for both you and students when these four points are true: (1) Your room is ready, (2) You greet students at the door, (3) You have assigned seating, (4) You have the first assignment ready (the assignment should be short, successfully for all students and interesting)”. (p.109)
  • “Ask any student who enters the room inappropriately to return to the door and enter appropriately. Do not send anyone out of the room but rather to the door; ‘out of the room’ has a negative connotation”. Never talk negatively to student but rather talk calmly, and do the following: (1) Ask student to return to the door, (2) Tell the student why, (3) Give directions for correctly entering the room, (4) check for understanding, and (5) Acknowledge the understanding.” (p.109)
  • On the first day of school, tell the students who you are and your expectations.
  • It is imperative teachers decide before the school year what they want to record. For example, attendance, homework assignments, classwork, test grades, skills mastered, project grades, extra-credit work, class participation, and cumulative progress.
  • “The three most important student behaviours that must taught on the first days of school are (1) classroom guidelines, (2) procedures, and (3) routines”. (p.141)
  • “Effective teachers explain the posted guidelines and are willing to make change as the classroom situation requires”. (p.150)
  • “Effective teachers communicate and work cooperatively with students’ homes”. (p.160)
  • “Research indicated that engaged time should be about 75 percent of the allocated time. Academic time (teacher model or teaches skill set or concept should be around 35 percent of the allocated time. At the end, two questions that should be answered are (1) Did the students learn what you wanted them to learn?, (2) Can students show what they have learned?” (p.200)
  • “Effective teachers teach students, not the subject or grade level”. (p.208)
  • “Effective assignments have the following aspects: (1) What you want the students to learn, (2) Write each step and objectives as a single sentence, and (3) Write in simple language”. (p.210)
  • “Focusing on objectives and goals makes the most difference in student achievement. If students know what they are to learn, you increase the chances they WILL learn”. (p.211)
  • “The following is a guide to writing a learning objective: (1) pick a verb (Bloom’s Taxonomy), and (2) complete the sentence (ex. create a different system to catalog books in a library)”. (p.222)
  • “How to structure lessons for cooperative learning: (1) Specify the name of the group, (2) specify the size go the group, (3) state the purpose, materials, and steps of the activity, (4) teach the procedures, (5) specify and teach the cooperative skills needed, (6) hold individuals accountable for the work of the group, and (7) teach ways for students to evaluate how successfully they have worked together”. (p.258)

This is a fantastic book for fist-year teachers or veteran teachers who want to refine their skills. A sensational read to help you began the year.