Dr. Ross Greene and Collaborative Problem Solving

I meant to blog this shortly after I saw him, but got delayed on writing this piece.  Dr. Greene has two books so far “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School”. This post will focus on the latter of the two books which looks at why behavioural challenging students are failing in our system and how we are failing them.  I am only going to give some of the key takeaways from the talk because I think that reading his book and thinking about changing your own mindset on this area could be beneficial to the students we all teach.

I had the honour of seeing a presentation about a month ago from Dr. Greene.  It was insightful and was amazing to see the different ways that we could work with students to help them solve their problems.  The first part of his talk was something that I have come to realize, but was great to hear again, “Children do well if they can”.  All students want to do well and want to be successful, the students that have behaviour challenges just have other factors in the way and we (as teachers) need to help them out.

The main idea around the book and the talk was about how the students with challenging behaviours are challenging because they lack the skills to not be challenging.  It is a simple idea and thought but is very powerful and is a different lens to look through in the life of a student.  We used to think that it was the parent, or they were unmotivated, or attention seekers, or good manipulators, or even that they were testing limits…but these are wrong.  Some of the comical counterexamples are that if they were good manipulators they would be doing it without us knowing, we all test limits and can’t blame any student for doing the same thing, and that we as adults seek attention all the time to get our way; so why are we getting mad at children for  modelling what they see.  These were all old world ideas and if the strategies we had to fix them worked, we wouldn’t still be having these problems today.

He outlined some of the big ideas of his book which revolved around the skills that behavioural challenging students lacked.  They were executive skills (hindsight, forethought, impulse control), language processing and communication skills, emotional skills, cognitive skills (grey thinking), and social skills.  The amazing part of this discussion was that he did not place any of the blame on the parenting techniques a student was exposed to (something most of us do) and didn’t look at any of the psychiatric diagnoses that we are all expecting from a topic like this.  When he described some of the situations that displayed each one of the skills, it was easy to picture a student that I had taught or currently taught (in my short 3 year experience), which made talk that much more powerful.

I order to help these students he created a document to outline the different problems we see and strategies to help students and teacher collaboratively fix them.  It is all collaborative because in that model there are winners and winners (no losers if everyone agrees on the strategies).  You can find these resources at livesinthebalance.org and they are all free!

The strategy is the ALSUP (Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems).  It’s a simple idea that can have a lot of impact on the lives of the children we teach.  Teachers of the student meet and as soon as one person identifies a problem they see, all the teachers discuss where they may have seen a sign of this.  This process is continued until the sheet is complete.  The key things are that there are no theories here and they need to be specific to what has been seen.  Once this is complete then the teachers decide which problem they will help the student solve and then the meetings with the student take place.

The reason for the meetings with students is because it helps them take ownership of the problem and shows that you have empathy as well.  Its better than an adult imposed suggestion because the student may feel that the concern is not met and they are simply complying to make sure that they are fitting the rules of the class.  The other alternative is to leave it aside and not work through the problem, which only leads to further concerns as the problem grows when left unsolved.  There are some guidelines for the meetings but it can be overwhelming to see all the different parts of this model at once.

I know that it seems like some of the findings he presented are trivial and that it just creates another “job” to do, but I have been in a school where problems were brushed aside or solved from a unilateral perspective and it did not lead to anything but worse behaviour.  I believe in the statement that children do well if they can and are given the opportunity to succeed.  I have seen it in my applied level class this semester that if students are given the chance to be successful and feel the empathy from you, they will work their best to meet the expectations you set.

My question to you is, what do you think about this topic? How do we proactively deal with students who have behavioural concerns and how do we get them to fit back into our system effectively?

Video Games and Teaching

I recently spent the weekend finishing off the game the Last of Us for the Playstation 3.  I had been meaning to play it for a while but the fact is I never had the time.  After getting started I instantly got into the story and couldn’t stop thinking of ways to beat a certain level or even strategies to best use my player’s skills in the game play (I even asked my students for some hints as I was getting stuck).  The one thing that stuck out to me as I finished was “How can we compete at school with the stimulation that these games are providing our students?”

As a computer programming teacher I instantly saw the connections that could be made and how we could spin a lesson out of video game design and storytelling, and then go on to create our own games.  Unfortunately as a math teacher I was (and still am) stuck on the idea of how to get students into a subject that is often deemed one of the worst classes.  I often try to being humour into the course and try to connect what we are doing to real-life and even popular media (singing all about the bass when working on power laws), but I want to further inquire about gamifying my classroom.

I feel that with the amount of students that play games (girls as well as boys), we could all benefit from the power of gamifying classrooms.  Games provide that connection to our imagination and provide us with opportunities to try new things without being punished when failure occurs.  Although I strive to make the learning zone in my classroom a fail-safe zone where students feel comfortable in answering questions even without full certainty, it is not the same feeling as with a game.  Due to the fact the lives can come back and that you will not be judged on intelligence, failing in a game is much safer than failing in real life.  I have tried to make “games” that have helped the students get interested in tackling problems and being successful in their own learning, but it is not the same stimulation that a game provides.

I have often thought about making the MAP4C class into a game of life or the SIMS, because they learn about buying a house, saving money, and planning for their future.  I think the trouble lies in the delivery of content such as statistics (two-variable data sets, weighted averages, percentile ranks, etc.), exponent laws and exponential functions, and algebraic models (linear vs. quadratic vs. exponential graphs).  There are the trickier topics that can demotivate students and I want to further explore how to incorporate these into the ideas that we have for personal finance, trigonometry and geometry.  These are the questions that I have for myself and have for my colleagues who are further interested in making the courses more interactive like a game as that can help our students stay focused in this over-stimulated world.

It goes without saying that we will have to face the challenges of motivating students for a long period of time when they are developing shorter attentions spans.  With games, smartphones, and Netflix we are becoming the most boring and least controlled element in the students lives.  It is a difficult (but interesting) challenge although I am unsure of how we are able to compete or even teach the students content that they do not feel is applicable to their lives.  Reaching the students and getting them to see the application of content in their lives is one of the greatest accomplishments but is also the biggest obstacle.  We need to use the lesson of great video games: get them hooked to the story and the tasks at hand and they will want to continue attempting the work for hours (even days).

Teaching Resiliency

This year I have taken over a class after a month and a half of being taught by another teacher with a different mentality and different teaching style.  It has been a tough three weeks for both the students and myself, but for the most part we are all getting used to each others tendencies.  Included in the Growth Mindset approach to my teaching, I am trying to help my students (both that I teach and coach) about resiliency.

In the mixed level math class the students had a test from the last teacher that needed to be done when I walked in.  I immediately worked on diffusing the anger and outbursts that the students had towards doing a test after not being properly prepared.  We spent a few lessons ironing out any misconceptions, and my main goal was to instill confidence in their abilities.  I knew that most of the students would be successful but needed to have the right mindset to do so.

As I anticipated, there were students who were not thrilled with the outcome of their test.  I tried to talk to those students individually by letting them know that there is always a chance to improve and a chance to learn from our mistakes.  From that day on, I saw a big change in some of the students and saw them fight through the troubles they had before.  Just today I saw them face the challenges of the lesson with a positive attitude and with more courage to take risks.

I had a moment of learning resilience myself.  I had a few bad lessons where students were not focused and they had a bit of attitude towards what we were doing in class.  After having a bit of a hard time after school with what my next steps were I remembered what I told my students when they were struggling with things.  I feel like it is something that new teachers often forget, to live by the words we teach our students.  I know that after taking a step back and thinking about it, I was able to bounce back and realize that I need to show the same resiliency that my students showed.

Teaching A Split Class (in Secondary)

This summer I had the unique task of teaching summer school but my class was a split class.  I had a Grade 12 Advanced Functions group and  a Grade 10 Academic group in a single room.  At the start I was really nervous and feeling slightly overwhelmed at the task at hand.  Worrying that the students would not be working if I wasn’t watching them all the time and trying to think about how I would give each group of students the time that they deserved were the initial thoughts I had.  

The first day felt like a rollercoaster ride, simply because everything seemed to have just happened and I didn’t know how it had all worked out.  That night I made sure that I went on to plan the day out better and to make sure I had structured my day to avoid that feeling again.  Once the structure was set out by myself, the students felt more at ease and higher learning took place for most of the students.  The next week and a half went much better although I know that if I am fortunate enough to do this again next year I will have a better idea of what to do.

 

Some of the big takeaways I found in this experience were:

– both sets of students developed their own routine in the classroom.  Students knew when particular tasks were to be completed and they scheduled their time around it.

– students developed a level of respect for one another within the first day.  When I was teaching one group the other would work quietly and not interrupt.

– Grade 12 students were given the opportunity to re-learn topics they may have not been as comfortable with (like factoring) without having to ask in front of their peers

– Grade 10 students could see the applications of the topics they were learning in the new context (I would also vocalize how the skills from Grade 10 were now considered to be skills they knew by Grade 12).

 

One of the big things I would like to do next time is try to create opportunities for the two groups to work together (have the grade 12’s teach the 10’s a skill, or even have the 10’s talk about what they are doing and work through problem solving).   I was wondering if anyone out there has had this experience and has any ideas on how to make it less of two separate groups and more of one whole group.

The Power of New Technology

Today I had the opportunity of supply teaching a history class that was completely self-directed.  The students were creating blog posts on a particular topic in World History.  The teacher left the link in the supply notes so that I could look at the posts if I was interested.  I found that because the class was working hard I found myself captured by the posts and topics that the students wrote about.  I even found myself reading these throughout the day because I was interested in the other posts that were available.  Some of the students shared their view on the EU, Terrorism, Torture, and Global Warming, based on the research they have completed to show their new understanding.  The class made me think about how much we have changed in terms of teaching and learning.

Teaching math I have found that I did not think of ways or redefining my class and then integrating technology into it.  I have mainly used it for substitution and modification (through the use of new apps so students can continue to learn outside of the classroom).  But from this class and the computer science class at my current school it has made me start to think about how to foster the power of blogging in my math class. I feel that this would be a fantastic way to have my students truly think about what they have been learning.

In my future classes I feel like I am going to use blogging or even forms more often so that we are using the power of technology to positively enhance student learning. I know that this year I have learned a lot about integrating technology and have tried to use it more often but I am still learning and growing like my students are when they learn something new.

All That Google Has To Offer

dpinizzotto:

All that Google can do for you!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

Think Google is all about Search?  Or perhaps email?  Maybe Maps?

For a long time, @pbeens has been curating a list he calls Google A-Z.  I have it bookmarked so that I can link directly to various services.  The ones I use daily are promoted to separate bookmarks on their own and Gmail and Google + are always an open tab in my browser.  But, sometimes, you just need to dig deeper to find a desired service.  His collection is all linked to where you might want to go and is extremely helpful.

It’s very helpful if you know what it is you’re looking for by name.  Head to the first letter or do a search within the document and you’re there.

This week, I found another resource that tries to document the Google.  It’s the same great end results but adds a different twist.  It allows you to…

View original 100 more words

Teaching Perseverance

One thing I never thought about in my own schooling and on my teaching placements was teaching students the value of perseverance. It is something I became more aware of when I worked at the college level as a teaching assistant and then again this semester when I started teaching the grade 12 college math course.

I think this post links well with my earlier post on growth mindset because I have been trying to implement the idea of “I can” in my students minds. Today was one of those days where I later realized that the teaching I did was more than just teaching math content. I felt like I was able to teach a bit of perseverance to my students today which positively affected those who put in the effort. I had a couple have those “ahh” moments that we hope to see a lot of our students have.

At the end of the class I made sure to let my students know that we did struggle at the start but when they kept pushing through we made it to solving the problem effectively. Before the start of class today I had a student come to get additional work because they were going home sick. This made me realize that I needed to congratulate my students on their efforts because they needed to know that I appreciated their hard work in a difficult task.

I feel like the two lessons yesterday and today gave them the confidence they required in a task that they usually had difficulty with. I have always strived to create a connection with my class so that they felt comfortable with taking chances, but I am still learning how to motivate them to consistently persevere in math.