Improving the way we praise

“Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.” Anne Bradstreet

I stumbled across this article about giving the kind of praise that promotes healthy self-esteem rather than narcissistic views of self and abilities. That click led to some other articles on the same topic, looking at Praise vs Feedback, Praise for Girls, and another referencing the excellent Verizon video showing how conservative views of what girls should and shouldn’t do can deter them from tackling things like science and engineering.

I work in a boys’ school, so in my professional life the girl-focussed articles are less directly relevant, but the core message is still important: we must take care to show children with our words and actions that we value their efforts.

Things I am taking from this reading on a dreary Friday afternoon:

  • from the work of Carol Dweck: praise the process eg “I can see that you have worked really hard to write this story/ improve your piano playing/ latest achievement of any kind”
  • give the child your time and undivided attention: it proves that you value their actions (this is pretty hard in a class of 25 students when at least 5 of them are asking for help at any given moment)
  • superficiality and throw-away comments do more harm than good

More than anything else this feels like something that has to be an attitudinal shift for teachers (and parents), because it requires real effort to slow down and focus on one thing long enough to find that meaningful connection. In some areas that comes more easily than others – in conversations with my students about books they have enjoyed, it is easy to relax into a discussion about likes and interests, not least because that is likely to be a one-on-one or small group discussion. Finding times within a frantically busy lesson to pause beside someone and let them know that you saw their thinking and correction of their own spelling mistakes (for instance) is a lot harder.

And this weekend I will be listening to the way I talk to my daughters and son, looking for ways to give them the kind of feedback that shows I value them as young people who are growing into confident, capable individuals whom I will support in whatever direction they choose to travel.

‘Twas the night before Term 2, and all through my brain…

beautiful chaos via Pixabay CC0

I’m juggling the chaos, I hope not in vain:

Coming back into the fold

I wanted some ideas this week about effective, valuable ways to use ipads in K-2 classes, because I am part of the team working on how we will be making good use of these devices when they arrive in classes later this year. For me it always boils down to the practicalities of how something will work in the classroom – I read a lot of philosophical and erudite discussion of enhancing pedagogy and moving through the stages of the SAMR model of technology adoption and integration etc, etc, etc, but when it comes down to helping teachers on the ground, I want to hear what is working for other people in similar situations.

Enter the PLN. I hopped on Twitter on Tuesday night (I am only a sporadic, purpose-driven user) and put the question out there, pinged a few people with direct tweets, and then spent the next little while marvelling at the wonderful suggestions I received.

Since then I’ve added 3 more apps, 2 more people, 2 more blogs, and several articles – oh and a very kind email list of schools to check out!

This is proving to me yet again that social media can connect us to people with the knowledge we need, if you build those networks purposefully. I found that my Twitter network grows most rapidly, and more richly, when I actively seek out people who tweet insights during conference streams. I want to connect with people who have lively, curious minds, who seek out new ideas and information and are so thrilled with what they find that they just want to share their excitement! I want to read about brave new projects, and about what goes wrong, and how they tried to fix it. Fortunately for me, I have just enough people in my PLN now that I can ask a few questions and get some helpful answers back in a reasonable timeframe, and with far less effort than trawling through endless search results in the-major-search-engine-of-your-choice. I guess it comes back to that sense of knowledge being curated information; a search engine can return data, but for a query about how to use ipads effectively in an early childhood setting, the personal responses from experienced educators are exponentially more valuable.

And speaking of gems found in the Twitter feed, just this evening I followed a tweet from @SJBetteridge to discover (on Free Tech 4 Teachers, a fabulous blog!) this lovely little homage to Libraries and Librarians in the Internet Age, by Common Craft:


And to get back to the point about PLNs and Twitter being awesome, this week a retweeted link led me to a post on Langwitches by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano about Unpacking a Twitter Conference Feed – this is amazingly helpful for anyone who is new to the whole thing!

Understanding by Design – Chapter 1 – Backward Design

  • The “twin sins of traditional design”: activity-based (engaging activities on a topic) and coverage-based (get through the course content) design
  • The three stages: 20150302-210509.jpg
  • references to previous theorists, difference here is the explanation of a process, tools, templates etc to help successfully implement the UbD approach
  • 1-page template with design questions for teachers – gives an overview of an entire unit
  • design standards as quality control
  • valuable tool for self-assessment, peer-review
  • case study example
  • assessment are “teaching targets”
  • teaching enables performance
  • The UbD Design Matrix

Digging into designing learning

I have started reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005)(this edition on Amazon). The phrase “backward design” has been floating around discussions of curriculum design for a while now, both on the ground at my school and ‘out there’, on the interwebs. This concept is not really new to me; I have read a bit here-and-there, following up on links from conference sessions, and have used similar strategies through various professional learning experiences (Intel in Education course, 2005, springs to mind – infusing technology into the curriculum by starting with the Essential Question and working back from there- review paper available here). However this is the first time I have sat down to read a textbook on the topic.

First impressions: this approach dovetails quite nicely with how I plan units of work. I think it will help me refine my techniques, and to be more explicit in sharing learning goals with students. I also like the quiet humour showing up here and there – always makes it easier to read a densely-packed serving of information when it is lightened a little with appropriate puns!

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