by Harry and Rosemary Wong
How to Motivate Your Students
There are many ways to excite, influence, and motivate students and one of the best techniques is the use of a discrepant event. A discrepant event is something that doesn't make sense to the mind, even while starring at it in disbelief. This kernel of skepticism is enough to pique any student's curiosity.
In our video series, The Effective Teacher, we model the use of a favorite classroom discrepant event. The class is asked to place two books near the edge of a table, leaving a small space between the two books. The students are to place a piece of writing paper over the books. Then offer anyone in class $1,000,000 if they can blow between the books and blow the piece of paper off the books. It's impossible no matter how hard the students try!
When they can't, they all scream "why, why, why?" And as effective teachers know, you never tell them why, because once you have them involved and interested you can do anything you want with them. If you want to lecture and explain what happened, they will listen. If you want them to watch a video related to the topic, they will watch. If you want them to break into groups and solve the problem themselves, they will work in groups.
More Discrepant Events
In the field of science, one of the best resource books for discrepant events is Invitations to Science Inquiry by Tik Liem. Dr. Liem has passed away, but many who attended science meetings will remember his jammed packed sessions where even the most die-hard science teachers would whoop and holler, laugh and cheer as he regaled the group with one discrepant event after another. Discrepant events are fun and exciting to do. They cause the students to sit in absolute amazement and, of course, the students go home with a great sense of pride knowing that their teacher is even better than David Cooperfield in causing people to ponder and wonder-which are the seeds for learning. To find Tik Liem's book and other materials, access www.scienceinquiry.com.
Every subject has its discrepant events. In language arts, there are palindromes. These are words, phrases, and sentences that spell the same backward or forward. Word examples include "mom" and "deed." A phrase as a palindrome would be "name no one man."
Free Probability Device
Math is full of discrepant events, number problems or events that are so amazing that the students will ask, "Hey, how did you do that?" Perhaps you have been to one of several science centers and seen a large-scale model of the probability device shown below. It is fascinating to observe crowds of people stand for great lengths of time, watching as one ball drops after another and no matter how often the activity is repeated, the question is always asked, "Why do the total of all the balls always wind up in a normal distribution or bell-shaped curve?"
We have a few class sets of 15 of these Probability Devices for those of you quick enough to ask. They are absolutely free with the postage included. Just give us your name, school, address, and class or grade that you teach and email this to us at the address shown at the end of this column. These sets will not be available after June 15, so email us now if you are interested.
When you get your Probability Devices,
- have your students hold the device vertically, upside down, until the some 256 small steel balls fall into the reservoir.
turn the device over and place the bottom flat against the tabletop.
watch as the balls each fall into one of the nine columns.
no matter how many times you repeat this procedure, the results will always be the same-a normal distribution curve. Why?
Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician of the seventeen century, developed the basic laws of probability. He investigated the arrangement of numbers known as Pascal's triangle and this arrangement is shown on the front of the Probability Device.
The most basic law of probability says that each event is an independent event and does not influence previous or future events. For instance, each time you flip a coin, the probability of the coin coming up heads or tails is always 50 percent. Even if a coin has come up heads five straight times, the next time you flip the coin the odds are still 50 percent for either heads or tails.
Likewise, as each ball falls down the channels of the Probability Device, each has a 50 percent chance of falling to the right or left at each junction of the channels. Knowing this, why do more balls fall into the center columns than the far extreme columns?
Forming Support Groups
Now that the students have been duly motivated, the effective teacher knows how to structure the procedures for group work. We know that many teachers have given up having group work because each time they try, confusion and disorder reign. So, here are some practical points for the smooth running of groups.
Groups are to be divided by the number of jobs, not by the number of people. The number of people in a group must equal the number of jobs in the group. People do not go through life always working, say, in groups of four. The task always specifies the optimum number of people needed.
Learning is much more effective when it takes place within a support group of learners.
Instead of having groups or teams, organize your class into Support Groups with each member of the group known as a Support Buddy. The world is full of support groups, people helping people. There are support groups for senior citizens, alcoholics, cancer patients, battered women, abused children, and war veterans. Children are at an age when they need lots of support. Instead of isolating them with seatwork, surround them with support buddies and teach them how to support others.
Teach Group Procedures
Ineffective teachers divide students into groups and expect the students to work together. Effective teachers teach the group procedures and social skills needed for functioning in a group. All successfully run classrooms have procedures, and having group procedures is no exemption. Before you begin your first group activity, teach the following four procedures which will be consistent for all other group activities.
- You are responsible for your own work and behavior.
- You must ask each Support Buddy for help if you have a question.
- You must be willing to help any Support Buddy who asks for help.
- You may ask for help from the teacher only when the group has reached consensus with the same question.
You Are Responsible For Your Own Work
The reason some students do nothing or copy from other students is that they do not have specific tasks or jobs. Determine the number of students you need to accomplish an activity, divide the class accordingly, and then spell out the assignments.
For instance, in a group of four
Student 1 is responsible for getting the materials and returning them to the appropriate place when the day or period is over.
Student 2 is responsible for seeing that the steps of the activity are followed.
Student 3 is responsible for making observations, recording data, and taking minutes as the activity progresses.
Student 4 is responsible for overseeing the writing of the group report.
For more information on how to work with groups, please consult Chapter 24, "How to Get Your Students to Work Cooperatively," in The First Days of School where you will learn in detail how to structure a cooperative learning activity. The basic format for all group activities is
- Teach the PROCEDURES.
- Specify the group NAME.
- Specify the SIZE of the group.
- State the PURPOSE, MATERIALS, and STEPS of the activity.
- Specify and teach the COOPERATIVE SKILLS needed.
- Hold the individuals ACCOUNTABLE for the work of the group.
- Teach ways for the students to EVALUATE how successfully they have worked together.
Why Group Work?
Group work is really hands on work where the brain and the body are actively engaged.
The mind cannot forget
what the hand has learned.
However, we need to caution that having students do activities, just for the sake of doing activities, is not learning. It may be nothing more than "busy work" designed to keep the students occupied and out of mischief.
In his 42 years of studying children, Jean Piaget discovered
Students do not learn by doing activities.
They learn by thinking about what they are doing.
So naturally, any group activity needs to include sharing and discussion of what each group discovered and learned. This is how the students think about or conceptualize the work of the activity.
Summary of the Year
It's been a wonderful first year with teachers.net and we look forward to our next year. We are most appreciative of those have who communicated with us. To summarize the year, our columns included
|June 2000||YOUR FIRST DAY - Scripting the first day of school|
|July 2000||APPLYING FOR YOUR FIRST JOB - Your first job and induction|
|Aug 2000||THERE IS ONLY ONE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL - The seven things students want to know|
|Sept 2000||THE PROBLEM IS NOT DISCIPLINE - It's the lack of procedures|
|Oct 2000||HOW TO START A CLASS EFFECTIVELY - Start with bell work|
|Nov 2000||THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES ARE CRITICAL - High school examples|
|Dec 2000||IT'S NOT THE STUDENTS; IT'S THE TEACHER - Teaching procedures|
|Jan 2001||THE MIRACLE OF TEACHERS - You are a marvel|
|Feb 2001||A JOURNEY OF THE HEART - Making a difference|
|Mar 2001||WHAT SUCCESSFUL TEACHERS ARE TAUGHT - New teacher induction|
|Apr 2001||NINETY-NINE PERCENT NEW TEACHER RETENTION - Keeping teachers in the profession|
|May 2001||HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR STUDENTS - How to do group work|
You can access any of these past columns by going to the end of the left margin and clicking on "Gazette Back Issues."
There Is a New Day Dawning For You
At the beginning of this column we mentioned our videotape series The Effective Teacher. It is fitting as we end our first year with teachers.net to share with you the singer and her song that ends our videotape series. The vocalist is Joyce Randolph, who teaches English at a high school in San Jose, California, and the song that she wrote and sings is My New Day.
MY NEW DAY
(Theme from Careers for Kids Curriculum Series)
Click here to listen to a sample!
I BELIEVE IN MY NEW DAY THAT'S DAWNING
AND THE PROMISES THAT LIE THERE FOR ME.
DEEP WITHIN, THERE'S A KNOWING THAT SOMEDAY
I'LL BE ALL I'VE DREAMED I CAN BE.
MY HOPES ARE PERCHED ON THE CREST OF THE RAINBOW
MY HEART IS HITCHED TO THE BRIGHTEST OF STARS
I WILL STRIVE FOR THE BEST
AND ACCEPT NOTHING THAT'S LESS
THAN THE FULLNESS OF WHAT MY DREAMS ARE.
I BELIEVE IN MY NEW DAY THAT'S DAWNING
I HAVE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE IN ME
THERE'S NO STOPPING ME NOW
I KNOW WHY-I KNOW HOW
I CAN BE ALL I'VE DREAMED I CAN BE.
I STAKE MY CLAIM ON THIS NEW DAY BEFORE ME
THERE'S NO MOUNTAIN, NO HILL I CAN'T CLIMB.
I CAN FEEL IN MY HEART OH SO CLEARLY
THAT THE SKY AND ITS LIMITS ARE MINE.
I BELIEVE IN MY NEW DAY THAT'S DAWNING
I HAVE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE IN ME
THERE'S NO STOPPING ME NOW
I KNOW WHY-I KNOW HOW
I CAN BE ALL I'VE DREAMED I CAN BE.
Music and lyrics by Joyce Randolph,
English teacher, Santa Teresa High School. San Jose, CA
Copyright Columbia Publishers (1997). San Francisco, CA, (1993-2001)
Reprinted with permission.
The song is available on CD from 2 different sources:
Joyce Randolph, PO Box 54038, San Jose, CA 95154
"Careers for Kids Curriculum for Elementary Schools."
c/o Columbia Publishers, 1963 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94117.
Light Another Candle
As another school year comes to a close, don't let the mad rush to finish the curriculum, return the class work, and grade the papers detract you from the most important person in the room-you. You have given so much during the year, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully. Focus on all of your successes and not your not so successful ventures. Revel in your successes! Do not leave bitter and disappointed as it will only affect your personal life. You did your best so be proud of what you did.
Most importantly, when you bid your students "goodbye," say it with meaning and love. Their life and your summer will be much happier if you both part with a happy and loving heart.
With each new year learn to build on to your old successes and add one new success after another. You dedicated yourself to making a difference in the lives of your students. Remembering this will help you to light more candles as you strive to brighten the lives of your students.
We believe that there is a new day dawning for each and every one of you. Have a great summer and know that the kids will be waiting for you to shine again in their lives.
Past Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
If you spot a link that appears to be out-of-date, please alert us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
- Love, Marriage, and Babies, Oh My! (May 2015)
- Retention Rate Is 100 Percent (Apr 2015)
- Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital (Mar 2015)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Feb 2015)
- Making Deals Is Ineffective (Dec 2014 / Jan 2015)
- Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices (Nov 2014)
- Sharing to Succeed (Oct 2014)
- How a University Prepares Its Students (Sep 2014)
- Effective Teaching (Aug 2014)
- Your Future Is in Your Hands (June/July 2014)
- The Classroom Management Book (May 2014)
- When Students Succeed; Teachers Succeed (April 2014)
- Teaching New Teachers How to Succeed (March 2014)
- Execute and Praise (February 2014)
- Shaping a Solid Foundation (Dec 2013 / Jan 2014)
- The Most Misunderstood Word (November 2013)
- How to Start Class Every Day (October 2013)
- Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems (September 2013)
- Planning, Planning, Planning (August 2013)
- Are You THE One? (June / July 2013)
- Practical Examples That Work (May 2013)
- A Disability Is Not a Handicap (Apr 2013)
- Totally Inexcusable (Mar 2013)
- Be Proud of Public Education (Feb 2013)
- Structure Will Motivate Students (Dec 2012 / Jan2013)
- Orchestrating the Classroom (Nov 2012)
- The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching (Oct 2012)
- Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy (Sep 2012)
- Twenty-two, First Year, and Legit (Aug 2012)
- A Master Teacher of Teachers (June/July 2012)
- Where Going to School Means Success (May 2012)
- A Nationally Celebrated High School (Apr 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 2 (Mar 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 1 (Feb 2012)
- The Importance of Culture (Dec 2011 / Jan 2012)
- You Can Teach Classroom Management (Nov 2011)
- Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent (Oct 2011)
- Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors (Sep 2011)
- How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency (Aug 2011)
- Graduation Begins in Your Classroom (June/July 2011)
- The Inspiration of a Mother (May 2011)
- How to Be an Effective Leader (Apr 2011)
- Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson (Mar 2011)
- Even Shakespeare Had Structure (Feb 2011)
- Effectiveness Defined: It's Not a Mystery (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011)
- Surviving Without a Principal (Nov 2010)
- Achieving Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 2 (Oct 2010)
- Teaching Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 1 (Sep 2010)
- Effective from the Start (Aug 2010)
- Ten Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2010 (June/July 2010)
- The Success of a Culture of Consistency (May 2010)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Apr 2010)
- Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (Mar 2010)
- Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality (Feb 2010)
- Dreams and Wishes Can Come True (Dec 2009 / Jan 2010)
- Success in a State Controlled School (Nov 2009)
- Inner City Is Not An Excuse (Oct 2009)
- Exceeding All Expectations (Sep 2009)
- Teachers Are the Difference (Aug 2009)
- Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009 (Jun/Jul 2009)
- Teachers Are the Greatest Assets (May 2009)
- The Tools for Success (Apr 2009)
- Assessing for Student Learning (Mar 2009)
- To Be an Effective Teacher Simply Copy and Paste (Feb 2009)
- The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing (Dec 2008)
- A School That Achieves Greatness (Nov 2008)
- Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams (Oct 2008)
- It Was Something Close to a Miracle (Sep 2008)
- A Computer Teacher Shows the Way (Aug 2008)
- Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008 (Jun/Jul 2008)
- An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher (May 2008)
- Schools That Beat the Academic Odds (Apr 2008)
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers (Mar 2008)
- Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors (Feb 2008)
- Wrapping the Year with Rap! (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
- The Floating Teacher (Nov 2007)
- Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides (Oct 2007)
- Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School (Sep 2007)
- First Day of School Script - in Spanish, Too! (Aug 2007)
- Seven Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2007 (Jun 2007)
- Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully (May 2007)
- Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness (Apr 2007)
- Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers (Mar 2007)
- Students Want a Sense of Direction (Feb 2007)
- Rubrics in Two College Classes (Dec 2006/Jan 2007)
- How to Write a Rubric (Nov 2006)
- Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric (Oct 2006)
- A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate (Sep 2006)
- Effective Teachers Are Proactive (Aug 2006)
- Five Year Summary of Articles (Jun 2006)
- Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher (May 2006)
- They're Eager to Do the Assignments (Apr 2006)
- The Success of Special Ed Teachers (Mar 2006)
- What Teachers Have Accomplished (Feb 2006)
- Fifty Years Ago, The Legacy (Dec 2005/Jan 2006)
- The Emergency Teacher (Nov 2005)
- Classroom Management Is Not Discipline (Oct 2005)
- A Successful First Day Is No Secret (Sep 2005)
- The Most Important Factor (Aug 2005)
- Four Year Summary of Articles (Jul 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 2) (Jun 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1) (May 2005)
- Never Cease to Learn (Apr 2005)
- His Classroom Is a Real Life Office (Mar 2005)
- The Power of Procedures (Feb 2005)
- The First Ten Days of School (Jan 2005)
- PowerPoint Procedures (Nov/Dec 2004)
- The Saints of Education (Oct 2004)
- How Procedures Saved a Teacher's Life (Sep 2004)
- How to Help Students with Their Assignments (Aug 2004)
- Three Year Summary of Articles (Jun/Jul 2004)
- His Students are All Certified (May 2004)
- What to Do When They Complain (Apr 2004)
- A Well-Oiled Learning Machine (Mar 2004)
- The Effective Teacher Adapts (Feb 2004)
- How to Start a Lesson Plan (Aug 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market - Part 2 (Jun/Jul 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market (May 2003)
- The Effective Substitute Teacher (Apr 2003)
- A First Day of School Script (Mar 2003)
- How to Retain New Teachers (Feb 2003)
- No Problem With Hurricane Lili (Dec 2002)
- A Class Size of 500 (Nov 2002)
- Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers (Oct 2002)
- Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds (Sept 2002)
- How To Start School Successfully (Aug 2002)
- Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations (June - July 2002)
- $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher (May 2002)
- Even Superintendents Do It (Apr 2002)
- Impossible, No Job Openings? (Mar 2002)
- A Stress Free Teacher (Feb 2002)
- A Most Effective School (Jan 2002)
- Van Gogh in Nine Hours (Dec 2001)
- The Effective Teacher Thinks (Nov 2001)
- How a Good University Can Help You (Sep 2001)
- How to Motivate Your Students (May 2001)
- How to Recognize Where You Want to Be (Apr 2001)
- What Successful New Teachers Are Taught (Mar 2001)
- A Journey of the Heart (Feb 2001)
- The Miracle of Teachers (Jan 2001)
- It's Not the Students. It's the Teacher. (Dec 2000)
- The First Five Minutes Are Critical (Nov 2000)
- How to Start a Class Effectively (Oct 2000)
- The Problem Is Not Discipline (Sep 2000)
- There Is Only One First Day of School (Aug 2000)
- Applying for Your First Job (Jul 2000)
- Your First Day (Jun 2000)
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