July 2024
Vol 21 No 7

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About Effective Teaching

The most important factor in improved student learning is with an effective teacher.  Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong feature effective teachers and administrators and what they do to enhance student learning.  The columns provide specific strategies and activities that you can download and use.  An archive can be found at the end of every column.

These strategies and activities are all based on the teachings and works of Harry and Rosemary Wong and they are happy to share the work of effective teachers with the profession.  If you have an effective strategy or technique that works, please share this by sending it to

About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

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 2.9 million copies have been sold.

A third edition of The First Days of School 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

February 2007

Students Want a Sense of Direction

There are seven things every student wants to know on the first day of school and one of these is “How will I be graded?” The other six can be found on page 105 in The First Days of School.

A child who doesn’t have a sense of direction and is anxiety ridden over a lesson is a child who cannot learn.  Both teachers and students thrive best in a classroom when there are a common set of outcomes.

One of the best ways to tell students upfront what is expected of them is to use a scoring guide, more popularly known in education as a rubric.  In the past three columns, we have written about rubrics:

October 2006 – “Assessing Student Progress With a Rubric
November 2006 – “How to Write a Rubric
December 2006/January 2007 – “Rubrics in Two College Classes

A Picture Rubric

If you are still a bit confused as to what a rubric is, this picture will clarify it all.

What you see is a picture rubric.  The picture rubric was developed by Kathy Monroe, a first grade teacher in San Jose, California.

Kathy has the four pictures drawn up ahead of time.

She shows the four pictures to the class and asks the students which one they think is the best.  She asks, “How would you describe it?” This particular year, the class answered “terrific.” She gives that picture a “4.”

“Which one is the next best?” she asks.  They agree on the word, “good.” That’s a “3.”

Kathy does the same for the remaining two pictures.

The four pictures are posted with their word descriptions and point values.

She uses whatever the class says that year.  Here are words the students used in another school year in a picture showing Kathy Monroe and a student..

When the students are drawing their illustrations, they are welcome to go up to the rubric posted in the room and decide if they have drawn a 4, 3, 2, or 1.

Rubrics help students to determine how their work will be evaluated.

Does Kathy get good and terrific drawings from her students?  Of course, because

Students get more done when they see where they are going and
what they are doing

In our December 2006/January 2007 column we quoted student Lauren Lunt, who said, “I like rubrics because they outline exactly what is expected of you and how to earn a grade.  It also told me that she was prepared to teach.”

From a student’s point of view, it is very important to see very vividly that “the teacher is prepared to teach.”

It creates a sense of comfort, security, and confidence to see that
the teacher knows what he or she is teaching.

Named National Board Certified

Last month, December 2006, Karen Rogers, a high school science teacher in Olathe, Kansas, earned National Board certification.  She is one of 55,000 National Board Certified Teachers, out of over 3 million teachers.  To learn more about how to become a National Board Certified Teacher, go to  We commend, congratulate, and applaud Karen on her dedication, commitment, and professional accomplishment!

Karen shared five of her scoring guides with us.  Karen says that her scoring guides are not sophisticated guides, thus making it easy for students to understand and follow.  She says that her students respond better when information is in short and simple doses.

She has a scoring guide for

  • Laboratory Report
  • Graphing
  • Group Discussion
  • Presentations to the Class
  • Presentations to the Class (listening)

Click here to see Karen Rogers' scoring guides.

Karen says, “In my science classes, I use scoring guides for writing lab reports and graphing.  Writing a lab report can be overwhelming for students.  On my lab report scoring guide, I list the criteria for each component (hypothesis, data, analysis, etc.).  That way, students can proceed with their experiments and their reports in a simple, step-by-step fashion.

“I also use rubrics for graphing in science.  Even after giving directions, I discovered that I still needed to verbally repeat certain things like the following: ‘Make sure you have a title.  Make sure it is labeled.  Make sure it is neat.’ Using the scoring guides for graphing eliminates the repetition of explaining the important components of making a proper graph.

“My students enjoy using the rubrics for several reasons.

Bryan Shephard says he likes them because they ‘tell you what you need to know to do the assignment.  You don’t have to remember all the directions the teacher said.  You know how to get 100%.’

Nick Jahner agrees.  Nick says, ‘With the scoring guides, you can control your grade and know what you are going to get in advance.’

Miles Miller likes them because, ‘they keep the grading standard (uniform) and they give you the basic idea of what needs to be done.’

“In addition to using rubrics for lab reports and graphing, I also use simple rubrics for activities such as giving presentations, listening to others, and participating in discussion.  They help reinforce procedures for these activities and clarify expectations for students.”

She concludes by stating that she often modifies her scoring guides to suit a particular activity.  The scoring guides that Karen Rogers uses can easily be applied to all other subjects where students need to

  • write reports,
  • collect and display data,
  • be involved in group discussion,
  • make presentations to the class, and
  • listen when others are making presentations.

Constructing Your Own Rubric

Using Karen’s scoring guides or rubrics you can construct your own rubric.

A rubric has three parts.  These indicate the criteria for a piece of work or what counts.

  • Criteria:  Name the category or trait that will serve as a basis for determining the student work.
  • Point Values:  Keep this simple. A scale of values from 0 to 4 fits most performance levels.
  • Performance Expected:  Define and give examples of the level of performance expected to earn a point value. This helps the students to judge and revise their own work before handing in their assignments.

Use Karen’s scoring guides as a starting point in designing your own scoring guides.

Use RubiStar to Construct a Rubric

In our October 2006 column, “Assessing Student Progress With a Rubric,” we shared a rubric designed by high school English teacher Norm Dannen that he used with his lesson on the novel, The Great Gatsby.

Diana Greenhouse uses a rubric on the novel, Baseball Fever.  We wrote about Diana Greenhouse in our October 2005 column, “Classroom Management Is Not Discipline.” The book is about a boy who wants to play baseball, but his father wants him to play chess.  The conflict makes for great class discussion.  If you want to know what happens, you’ll have to read the book written by Johanna Hurwitz!

Diana uses the novel to involve the class in what she calls "Inner-Outer Discussion."

After the class reads a novel, she asks the students to construct five questions for discussion.

In preparation for the discussion, she sets up a double circle of chairs.  The inner circle of chairs faces in, and the outer circle of chairs faces out.  The chairs are back to back, making an inner and an outer circle of seats.

Students in the inner circle will be the first discussion group, while the students on the outer circle ask the questions they prepared for discussion and take notes.  The questions and notes are all turned in to Diana.

The students are handed their rubric before the activity begins.  It is reviewed and discussed so that they are aware of what is expected of them as they prepare for the discussion..

Diana explains that while the inner circle (facing in) is having their discussion, the outer circle (facing out) simply listens.  They are not allowed to have verbal input; their role is to be active listeners.  When prompted to do so by the facilitator, they ask the discussion questions and take notes.  This helps to develop listening skills.

The students in the outer circle are always eager to have their turn at discussion because they have been listening and have a tremendous amount of input bottled up, or written in their notes.  Most are very busy writing down important points or jotting down their thoughts.

Everyone has a novel, a notebook with their questions, paper for taking notes, and their rubric.  Diana randomly selects a discussion group facilitator, and the discussion and learning begin.  After 20 minutes, the groups switch roles and a new discussion group begins.

Diana says, “I look forward to these "Inner-Outer Discussions," because I enjoy watching my students take charge of the lesson.  They are developing good thinking, listening, and speaking habits.  My students enjoy the discussions and appreciate the use of the rubric because they know exactly what I'm looking for and are better able to control their own grade.  They say they feel a sense of power, and that thrills me because empowering students is one of my daily goals!”

Diana says, “This is a wonderful activity to observe and my students amaze me every time!”

To see Diana Greenhouse’s rubric for Baseball Fever, click here.

Although it is possible to construct your own rubrics from scratch, many teachers find it simpler to adopt or modify existing rubrics.  Diana constructed her rubric with the help of information, models, and examples found on Rubistar,

RubiStar is a tool teachers can use to help learn how to devise and use rubrics.  Many examples are given so that you can save time rather than develop a rubric from scratch.

RubiStar gives you the ability to view, edit, and analyze a saved rubric.  You can also use RubiStar to help you analyze the performance of your whole class.

Students Want to Know the Goals of the Class

Stephen Covey says in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.”

When both the students and the teacher are moving towards the same goal,
that’s when you get learning.

Thus, the effective teacher does the following:

  1. Presents a lesson with an objective that focuses the goal of the lesson.
  2. Aligns the lesson to district or state standards.
  3. Uses activities that teach the objective.
  4. Assesses based on a test or rubric that is aligned to the lesson objectives.

An understanding of these four principles used by effective teachers can be seen and sung with a song written by Jim Wilhite, professor of education at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and his students.

With Wong expectations and high motivation
Our kids will come to class with a smile.

They’ll be the first ones to show, the last ones to go
And we’ll take them that extra mile.

And we’ll ease the surprise and the fear in their eyes
When we welcome them to our class.

They know the goals and everyone knows their roles
And this year will be a blast...

Click here if you would like the rest of the song and the tune it is sung to.

Whipping Up Success

Admit it.  You love cookbooks with loads of color photos.  Why? Those pictures set the standard for your level of success in duplicating the recipe.  That glossy full page image of the double fudge chocolate cheesecake is your rubric.

The Criteria:  Making the double fudge chocolate cheesecake
Point Values: 0 – 4
Performance Expected:

0 =

You’re not a baker and didn’t even attempt it.
1 = Your cheesecake sank in the center, is burned around the edges, and the chocolate topping is thin and runny.
2 = Your cheesecake sank in the center and is burned around the edges.
3 = Your cheesecake sank in the center.
4 = Your cheesecake is picture perfect—nice high rise, clean cooked edges, and creamy chocolate topping.

However, teaching is not just giving the students the rubric.  Creating the rubric is just one small piece of the total instructional picture.

You must provide the lesson objective, instruction and guidance
to help the students achieve success.

If the cookbook provides the photo, but no guidance in making the cheesecake, you’re doomed to failure.  The clearer the instruction, the more apt you to succeed.  The same is true in the classroom.

The rubric provides the clear image of success.  Before instruction begins, the students can visualize their accomplishment.

Surely you’ve said as you’ve thumbed through a magazine, “That dish looks so good, I can smell it!”

Create rubrics for your lessons so your students can smell sweet success!

For a printable version of this article click here.

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