June 2024
Vol 21 No 6

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About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

Special Harry Wong Speaking Notice

June 8, 2006. Huntsville, Alabama. This meeting is completely full and we thank you for your very kind response. We cannot accept any more registrations.

For those who are registered, please be sure to bring the Confirmation Ticket you received via email. This must be presented at the door for admission.

If there are any questions, please review or email Jean Bong at

We look forward to seeing you on June 8.

Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.

Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success.

Nearly a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for Teachers.Net so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work... Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO. They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

Their latest contribution to helping teachers succeed is an eLearning course on Classroom Management.

1. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.

2. The outcome of the course is
a 2 inch binder with your own
Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all successful teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 2.7 million copies have been sold.

A third edition of The First Days of School has been released and includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

The Wongs have also produced the video series The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They have released a new set of CDs with Harry Wong LIVE, speaking on How to Improve Student Achievement, as he speaks at one of his many presentations. He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, and CD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at or

Best Sellers

The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
$18.30 from
More information


The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
More information


Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong
eLearning course for individual use, CEUs available Preview the course and order at $124.95 (Group discounts available.)


How to Improve Student Achievement
Hear Harry Wong Live! in this 2 CD set
More information


New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$23.07 from
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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

$12.57 from
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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
by Roland Sawyer Barth

$13.30 from
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A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

$17.95 from
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Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith

$24.50 from
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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
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If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

$13.96 from
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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

April 2006

They're Eager to Do the Assignments

Julie Johnson has been teaching for over fifteen years and she’s never had problems getting her students to do their assignments.  How does she do it?

When we met Julie fifteen years ago as a kindergarten teacher she said, "When I begin each new lesson, I decide exactly what it is I want my students to know or be able to do.  Then I tell my students what they will be learning and how they will show me they have learned it.

“Next I show them how to do it.  We practice together (guided practice).  Then they practice on their own (independent practice).

“And then I test them the same way we practice.  In other words, how they will be tested.  This way we all know exactly what we are learning and how we will know when and if we have learned it.

“In my class, test is not a bad word.  It is something my students look forward to.  It is their chance to show me what they have learned.  They can't wait for their turn to be tested because after all the instruction and practice, the test is the easiest part, at least that's what my students tell me.

“They beg me to test them.  They even stand in line waiting for their turn to show me what they have learned.”

What is Julie Johnson doing to cause her students to beg her to show her what they have learned?

  1. She decides what she wants her students to learn.
  2. She shows them what they are to learn.
  3. They practice or do the assignment on what they are to learn.
  4. They are tested on what they know they are to learn.

As Julie says, “There are no secrets as to what is expected of them.  When I do this they all succeed.”

If students know what they are to learn,
you increase the chances that the
students will learn.

It’s like flying into a strange city, renting a car, and driving to your destination without a map.  How do you know when you’ve arrived?  Wouldn’t you have felt more confident in your journey knowing the address, having a MapQuest® map in your hand, or renting a car with navigation system so a voice is coaching you along the way to your destination?  Please review Chapter 22 in The First Days of School so we can guide you through the process of helping students to learn.

Boredom Is a Good Sign

“I’m bored.”

A student who is bored is not a bad or lazy student.  Rather, consider it a sign that the student wants to do something stimulating, exciting, and challenging.

It’s no different with an adult who says the program on television is boring, the food is boring, or the relationship is boring.  Adults are always looking for a better program, better restaurant, and better relationship.

All students know why they are in school.  They come to school to learn.  They know there will be assignments.  And learning and assignments take work.  The reason many students do not do their work or their assignments is not because they are unwilling or lazy but because they have no idea what the assignment is.  For instance, the ineffective teacher will say:

I have them read Chapter seven.
I have them do questions five to eleven.
I have them watch this video.
I tell them to write this paper.
I give them this worksheet to complete.

These are all meaningless assignments.  The students see no purpose, no meaning, and no value to what they are to do.  What does “read Chapter seven” mean?  What’s the purpose of “watching the video”?  So, why do it!  Thus, they have every right to say, “I’m bored!”

Also, notice how the teacher keeps saying, “I, I, and I.” The teacher orders the students to do things— meaningless things.  People of all ages rebel against doing things that are meaningless.

Since the students can’t rebel against this kind of clueless teaching or they will be sent to the office for insubordination, it’s simpler for them to say, “I’m bored.” “Bored” is a safe word to use.  People can hide behind the word.  It’s a socially accepted part of today’s jargon.

Do not take the word “bored” as an effrontery.  Rather, understand that the students want to work.  They just want to know the meaning or the purpose of the work.  That’s what is meant by “I’m bored.”

People get more things done when
they see where they are going
and what they are doing.

Take a look again at what Julie Johnson was doing. Julie’s key sentence is, “This way we all know exactly what we are learning and how we will know when and if we have learned it.”

The teacher knows what she is teaching.
The students know what they are learning.

Both the teacher and the students are moving towards the same goal.  That’s when you get learning.

Teach With the End in Mind

Julie Johnson teaches with the end in mind.  She said, “When I begin each new lesson, I decide exactly what it is I want my students to know or be able to do.”

Effective teachers keep asking the same basic question, “What do I want them to achieve?”

Everyone needs to have a common understanding of what skill or knowledge the students is to master.

The role of a teacher is not to cover.  Covering a chapter or a topic is meaningless.  Worse yet, the teacher does not even know what skill or knowledge student is to master.

Therefore, stop asking the following dead end questions:
       What am I going to cover tomorrow?
       What video am I going to show?
       What worksheet am I going to give them?
       What activity am I going to do?

The teacher who “covers” only thinks about getting across the lesson, not how best the student can learn the lesson.  They look for activities that are “fun,” “cute,” or will “bring the class alive.” They do not consider that these activities do not teach to any objective or standard.  They are preoccupied with what activities students will get through.

The danger is in the word “I.” The teacher is doing all the work.  The students are not responsible; they just come to school wondering what the teacher will do next.  They have no idea what they are to learn.  The teacher just covers.

The role of a teacher is to uncover.  The effective teacher uncovers the lesson by telling the students up front what the students are to accomplish.  Julie says, “Then I tell my students what they will be learning and how they will show me that they have learned it.  Next I show them how to do it.  We practice together.  Then they practice on their own.”

Start asking the following destination oriented question:
        What is it the students are to learn, achieve, or accomplish?

You can assess or evaluate effectively what the students have done when both parties know what the students are responsible for performing or learning.

Instead of thinking of what the teacher will go over,
focus on what the students will be able to do as a result of the lesson.

To do this, tell the students at the beginning of the assignment what they are responsible for learning, achieving, or performing.

The role of a teacher is not to cover. The role of a teacher is to uncover!

Teaching to Standards

Julie Johnson is teaching third grade now, but is using the same effective strategies to deliver the instruction and get the same student achievement results.  This is because she focuses on teaching for learning and mastery.

To do this she begins with the state standards.

Do not be alarmed by standards, because standards do not deprive you of creativity.  For instance, all cities have standards for construction.  When buying a home you would want to know that your home was built to code, which means that the standards for construction have been met.  However, builders and homeowners can creatively build the home in any fashion, provided it meets specified standards.  Likewise, in the classroom, teachers can creatively construct their lessons, provided the lessons’ objectives are in line with the state standards.  That’s common sense.

Using the Minnesota State Standards in Math, Julie aligned the standards with her district’s adopted Math textbook.

This gave her the ability to decide which math concepts needed to be taught first and which concepts not to teach at all.  She determined which chapters she would use and not use.  That is, the textbook was not the curriculum, the concepts that she aligned to the state standards were her curriculum.

She didn’t “cover” the textbook.  She taught to a curriculum, a curriculum focused on student learning.

In fact, the guidelines that accompany the Minnesota State Standards are specifically stated:
Teachers must develop and enrich
students’ knowledge of mathematics
beyond what is outlined in this document.

Mastery of each concept is expected but the document does not identify when those concepts are introduced and reinforced.

Standards are good because they give you a base point from which to start your class lessons.  You have to begin somewhere, so what better place to start than to use the state standards.  And, you must use the state standards.  You are not in private business; you are an employee of the school district (see page 22 in The First Days of School).

Julie began by designing the layout of the whole school year.  She decided which standards needed to be taught all year long, such as Mathematical Reasoning.

This is one of the Minnesota Grade Three standards:

Apply skills of mathematical representation, communication, and reasoning throughout the content strands.

With each concept she teaches, her students need to learn how to communicate and how to evaluate and express how they are thinking when solving a problem.  On almost every worksheet accompanying her math textbook, the students are asked to explain their answers in words.

Since the Minnesota Comprehensive Test is mainly multiple choice, the students must be able to READ the questions by themselves.  Thus, being able to READ the vocabulary and understand it becomes important to teach, along with the math.

There are also four writing questions where the students have to draw a graph or chart, or express their thinking using words.  These skills must also be taught and practiced as each concept is taught.  Students do not automatically know how to do this.

To assist with the reading and writing, Julie has her students bring a notebook at the beginning of each school year to use as their Math Journal.  In the back of their Math Journals, the students write down all of the vocabulary words that are taught with each concept.

They review these words every day.

In the front of their Math Journals, the students write numbers in order.  She has them organize each page into four rows of 25, so that each page has 100 numbers.  As they complete each page, they show it to her and she puts a small star at the bottom when it has been done correctly.

Julie says she is amazed at how many children have difficulty with numbering, but this activity helps her identify those students who need help understanding number sense.

The students work in their journals at the beginning of each math lesson.  Some students enjoy it so much they even take their journals home to work on.  One student filled two or three notebooks and was up to 20,000, but most are lucky if they reach 5,000 by the end of the school year.

This is another Minnesota Math Standard in Geometry:

Classify shapes by specified attributes.
Identify simple shapes within complex shapes.

These are the lesson objectives that are aligned to the state standards:
  1. Identify, describe, and classify two-dimensional shapes according to number
    and length of sides and kinds of angles.
  2. Identify common two- and three- dimensional shapes that are components of
    more complex shapes.

Julie gives the students vocabulary cards with all of the words to label the different shapes and other vocabulary words that relate to geometry.  These cut out cards are kept in an envelope in their “stay-at-school-folders.” At the beginning of each math lesson, the students set the cards out on their desks.

This procedure minimizes transition time and helps everyone, teacher and students, start the lesson right away.

This is how Julie uses the cards.  She says,
  1. I teach them what each word card is and what it looks like.
  2. I hold up models of a shape and they hold up the card that identifies the models. We do this for a few days or until I see they know them well.
  3. I hold up something that is real world and they match the shape.
  4. I have them find something in the classroom to match to their word cards.

As we use these cards, we also discuss the number of sides, faces, angles, etc.  I work on things like flips, turns, slides, congruency, lines of symmetry, parallel lines, and angles (right, greater than, or lesser than).

Julie continually assesses her students using the book’s quizzes and tests, which work well for her because they best match how the students will be assessed on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

The Future of Standards

We have just returned from a technology conference and witnessed how technology is used to access and track the progress of students as they master district and state standards.  This practice isn’t just happening in one district, it is becoming norm as exit testing is required for students to progress from grade level to the next or receive a diploma.

At the click of a button (or two!) a student’s level of mastery of standards can be revealed.  Students can be identified and helped before they fall through the cracks and are lost forever.

While many claim that teaching has been reduced to teaching to the test, we contend that that is not the case.  This is teaching to an objective.

The tests are used to assess for attainment of the objectives or concepts.  Teaching is the HOW you transmit and relate that information to your students so they CAN succeed on the test.

The HOW is boiled down to what steps are you the teacher going to take to make sure the students all achieve or master the objective.

How deep are you going to teach that concept so the students realize the objective? In the case of Julie Johnson’s geometry lessons about shapes, do you
  1. just work on the vocabulary so they know the concept?
  2. ask the students to draw the shapes so they comprehend the meaning?
  3. have students identify that shape as it appears in objects in the classroom?
  4. give students objects and ask them to sort them into groups that are and are not the shape?
  5. ask the students to create a picture using the outline of the shape?
  6. discuss with the students the advantages and disadvantages of using a specific shape in the design of something common to them?

A good teacher does items 1 and 2 to “teach” the concept, a better teacher includes questions 3 and 4 in the lesson plans, and the exceptional teacher teaches to all 6 questions so the students have a rich experience while learning the concept.

District and State Standards guide the development of information for students.  They don’t dictate how you are to teach.  That is your mission, your quest—to unlock the potential for learning in each student and uncover the promise of achievement for all.

For a printable version of this article click here.

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