Monday, December 22, 2014

Strong school health programs = Long term success

People for Education

People for Education 641 Bloor St. W. Toronto, On M6G 1L1 Canada

Strong school health programs = Long term success

new paper from Bruce Ferguson (SickKids) and Keith Power (Memorial University), shows that strong mental and physical health programs in schools have broad and long-lasting individual, social and economic impacts. But they say that despite the evidence, comprehensive school health programs are rarely implemented and are often squeezed out by other priorities.
Ferguson and Powers review a wide range of programs and measurement tools and their findings provide strong support for broader measures of success that include physical and mental health.

Why citizenship education matters

In the 1970's and 80's, the vast majority (more than 80%) of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in federal elections. In 2011, only 39% voted.

In a new paper released this week, University of New Brunswick professor Alan Sears argues that the "weak and fragmented" state of citizenship education in our schools may be one of the reasons for the plummeting voter rate. He says that developing clearer goals and success measures for citizenship education would help to turn around growing citizen disengagement among young people.
Citizenship is one of five new domains that People for Education is proposing should be added to broader goals and measures for our public schools.
People for Education is excited to have two new papers to add to our Measuring What Matters initiative. And in the New Year we're taking Measuring What Matters on the road - presenting at conferences in Cincinnati and Chicago, an international UNESCO/Brookings Institute conference in Kigali, Rwanda, and closer to home, in Ottawa and Toronto.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

There is more to education than the 3 R's: measuring what matters

Measuring What Matters

People For Education did a survey
More than 4000 people responded to the Measuring What Matters survey, and expressed strong support for broadening the goals for education to include areas beyond literacy and numeracy:
  • 84% said the general public definitely or probably does not understand how schools contribute to students' success in domains like social emotional skills, creativity, health and citizenship.
  • 47% would probably or definitely not assume that if a school has good literacy and numeracy scores it is doing a good job overall.
Percentage of respondents who agree with expanded goals and measures
 Set goalsExpand measures
Social-emotional skills89%79%
Quality Learning Environments96%89%

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Behaviour Management in the classroom

This is a lecture I gave to my student teachers at the Faculty of Education

A. Reasons for Misbehaviour  

Getting attention
– Focus on catching kids being good
– Ignore
– Do not nag, coax or scold
– Give attention to “good” kids – I like the way I see Jess’ agenda on desk”
Looking for Power
– “I can’t continue without your cooperation”
– Use the preganat pause
– “Do you think you could help by being an example?”
– Don’t lose your power.
Seeking Revenge
– Seek another student’s help.
– Use peer/class pressure.
Displaying Inadequacy
– Encourage and support the student
– Provide lifelines. “Call a friend”
– Do not indicate defeat or frustration – like animals who smell fear!
– Provide success at their level and react positively.

B. Preventing Misbehaviour

Classroom rules: assemblies, in class, school yard


C. Teacher Oath

“I will be fair, AND I won’t always be equal.”
I will always listen to your explanation of the story.
Because life can be unpredictable and unfair, consequences or penalties will
depend on ALL information and circumstances.
You will not always be treated equally.
Some decisions are private and will not be shared with the class.
I will attempt to be as fair as humanely possible.

D. Classroom management

When people become emotionally involved and are backed into a corner you have a
problem. We see destructive, angry, aggressive behaviours.
For students whose homes are Fight or Flight all the time – this is their reaction.
Reinforcement vs. Punishment
Punishment teaches: fear, aggression, avoidance.
Reinforcement - increases the likelihood of that behaviour happening again.
A student looking for attention e.g. Class Clown, will repeat his/her behaviour. Kids
looking for attention will ask for help and support and won’t make a move until they
know they will be right. Fear failure.
Breaking a curfew:
Punishment – consequence meant to decrease behaviour.
Both can involve something positive, to add something, or negative, to take something
away. Good marks on a report – you don’t give more work.
Postive punishment = to add something unpleasant: more chores, earlier curfew.
Negative punishment = take away privileges.
When kids come to school tired, I suggest they get to bed earlier.
Dr. Phil = TV in bedrooms, earn back TV time. 20 min HW = 20 min. TV. Manage the

E. Strategies

1. Privileges & responsibilities
2. Safety nets: taking risks
3. Office interventions
Have worksheets at the ready:
What did I do?
How am I responsible for it?
How can I prevent it from happening again?
4. Kiss of all kisses
Neutral response to misbehaviour. Godfather kisses betrayer. “I will see you at recess.”
Condemn the sin not the sinner.
“I do not like your behaviour.” Calm = control.
5. Reward or Consequence cards
Have cards handy: free recess, computer time or lines, write a letter, last out to recess,
One recess timeout in office.
6. Message on the desk - J L
7. Visual cues
– simple lists
– "Ignorance is not knowing. Stupidity is the active pursuit of ignorance"
8. Show me you are listening – what does listening look
9. Proximity control
10. Private appeal – private signals
11. One-minute correction
Could you rephrase that comment?
Can anyone help her find a better way of saying it?

One-minute discipline

1. Take responsibility- the buck stops here, the problem isn’t the kids, the
2. Accept your students unconditionally- they come to you wit so many
problems, accept them, care for them.
3. Commit to students growth through interventions-document, get help, read,
4. Delegate, work smart, and save energy. You have 25 helpers-use them. Make
sure that everything runs in your absence.
5. Open the gate of change. Teach each year anew – do not teach one year 20
times. Take a risk and try something new.
6. Add more tools to your repertoire. Keep adding new skills, tactics, strategies.
7. Be prevention-centered. Safety, Prepare them, let them know what you expect,
train them to disagree agreeably, teach them skills, standards, phone parents
early and teach manners so they know what your expect and demand it.
8. Promote self-reliance through transformations.
9. Develop relationships and a culture of appreciation.
10. Continually improve your instructional competence. Stay current; keep them
in the prefrontal cortex.

11. Constructive Criticism

1. Criticize privately
2. Give suggestions when you are NOT angry, ansulted, wronged
3. Condemn the behaviour not the person
4. Avoid the word YOU
5. Use I messages
6. Give the student a chance to be heard
7. Let the offender suggest a solution
8. Phone home /father – or not.
9. Be firm.
13. Behaviour modification
– Thank you for picking up that piece of paper!
14. Teaching while walking around – be visible
15. Seating arrangements -
16. Separate students -
17. Timeouts
– needs of group over needs of individual. Mathew- moving, disinterested, and
18. Consequences fit the crime –
If homework isn’t done – do it as recess. Make Recess Club an opportunity for extra time
and attention.
19. 90/10 rule
– 90% interactions should be positive.
– Building rapport increased likelihood of buying in.
– Catch them being good.
20. Voice Control -
21. Questions & requests
Desist Commands: “Don’t even think it.”
22. The laser stare –smile & wait
23. Pregnant pause
24. “See me after class” –whispered
25. Broken record
26. “3 Before Me”
27. Secret word – pizza
28. Sandwich technique:
positive, criticism, positive. “The first row is correct. You may want to rethink that
answer. I’m very proud of your effort.”
29. Routines & Class Jobs:
– Gopher, newspapers, calendar, attendance
– Procedure & practice = routine.
– Be consistent- don’t ask for hands sometimes and not others. This
confuses them.
– Entering the class
– End of the period: Clear off your desks. Don’t move until…. “5 pieces of
paper bigger than your thumbnail.”
– Responding to questions – “I disagree with that answer.”
– Handing in papers
– Participating in class discussions
– Regular morning routine i.e. “To do” list 
30. Paper clips
– 5 tokens per period/per question/comment
31. Manage Transition times smoothly
- give 5 min. warnings, don’t get them excited before a quiet activity. Use music.
32. Class meetings
33. Share Power
“If you want true power, you must give some of it away.”
Giving choices empowers students. Continuum.

34. Room arrangement

ClassDojo is a digital classroom management tool

This is an interesting high-tech tool, for teacher with some time to spend. ClassDojo is a tool to track children exhibiting particular behaviours. The teacher agrees to track certain behaviours, and reinforces the student when this behaviour is demonstrated.

behaviour management charts
Some say that the 'carrot and stick' mode of behaviour management is outmoded, but I disagree. This type of method tracks kids behaviour numerically. Unfortunately, some are using it to track negative behaviours, or deducting points for inappropriate behaviour.

This isn't the best method, in my experience, for improving behaviour in students who are working on their classroom self-control. I've used a fair number of tracking methods, but only for kids who need it. This seems humiliating if you have to be public about it.

There are privacy concerns about this tool, as parents can have access to the tracking system results. How humiliating to watch a kid having to walk up to a large SmartBoard and deduct a point.
There are some potential issues around the personal data collected and third party tools.

Personally, I liked my behaviour management charts. They are silent, easy, quick and do not embarrass the studetn.

New York Times article about ClassDojo and other tracking apps.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Homework Help through TVOntario

Ontario - Ministry Of Education (opens in a new window)

Homework Help is funded by the Ontario government and administered by TVO's Independent Learning Centre.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The marketing of school textbooks

In Ontario we have Circular 14, which lists textbooks that are permitted to be purchased by teachers. The math textbooks have been terribly contentious.

The 'new math' we've come to abhor had to be supplemented by the old exercises in the old books, which dated from the 80s.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, left, and Arkady R. Rotenberg, the chairman of a publishing house that has benefited from government maneuvers. Mr. Rotenberg, a judo sparring partner from Mr. Putin's youth, has gone from a modest trader to a billionaire during Mr. Putin's tenure.


Putin's Friend Profits in Purge of Schoolbooks


When the number of approved textbooks for Russia's 14 million schoolchildren was slashed by more than half, one publisher with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin profited handsomely.

The question for Microsoft, as with many American companies doing business in Mr. Putin’s Russia, is whether the potential profits outweigh the risk. United States law forbids American companies from doing business with companies majority-owned or controlled by sanctioned people like Mr. Rotenberg.

One of the colorful math textbooks published by a decorated educator, Lyudmila G. Peterson, was rejected for using characters from popular Western children’s stories, like Snow White’s seven dwarfs.CreditTop, James Hill for The New York Times

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Ottawa Shooting

A young reserve solider was shot and killed in our capital city of Ottawa by a gunman. Most of us are still reeling from this news and trying to make sense of what has happened today. But we also need to respond to our young people and help them unde...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why aren't we teaching multiplication tables?

It's not so much that we don't teach it, they don't practice it. Then there are the awful 'new math' text books, whereby kids use Discovery Learning to figure out that there ARE things like time saving times tables.

 I had strategies, despite the fact that 'kill and drill' were supposed to be passé.

Of course, the issue is with the text books, which want us to use the discovery method of learning that it is easier to memorize them. I didn't like letting them use calculators. That's just lazy and time consuming.

The kids most at risk won't learn them without some intervention. That was made fun in my classrooms.
I created a chart, each student had the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of each number.
Week one, we would begin with the 2's.
Each student would come up to the front of the room, bounce a basketball and recite 2, 4, 6, 8, and once done, they would get a star.
The ball kept them going, at a predictable rate of speed. If they couldn't keep up, they would sit down, and the next student would try. They could go to the end of the line.
The beauty of this was that if a kid wasn't ready, they would hear more of their peers reciting it, and would often learn it from simply listening.
Week 3, the keeners would want to go to the 3 times tables.
I taught the kids the trick with the 9 times tables. They thought that was so cool!

Ontario Curriculum:

Grade 2: Number Sense and Numeration

Overall Expectations By the end of Grade 2, students will: • read, represent, compare, and order whole numbers to 100, and use concrete materials to represent fractions and money amounts to 100¢; • demonstrate an understanding of magnitude by counting forward to 200 and backwards from 50, using multiples of various numbers as starting points;

Grade 3: Number Sense and Numeration

Overall Expectations By the end of Grade 3, students will: • read, represent, compare, and order whole numbers to 1000, and use concrete materials to represent fractions and money amounts to $10; • demonstrate an understanding of magnitude by counting forward and backwards by various numbers and from various starting points; • solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of single- and multi-digit whole numbers, using a variety of strategies, and demonstrate an understanding of multiplication and division.
– multiply to 7 x 7 and divide to 49 ÷ 7, using a variety of mental strategies (e.g., doubles, doubles plus another set, skip

Grade 4

– multiply to 9 x 9 and divide to 81 ÷ 9, using a variety of mental strategies (e.g., doubles, doubles plus another set, skip

Friday, September 12, 2014

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?'

This is a great article!

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?' Without Asking Them 
'So How Was School Today?'
As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them -- but I know it's going to be worth the work....
1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Teachers on strike in British Columbia

The Vancouver School Board has quietly settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that raised questions about the role class size and composition — key issues in the ongoing teachers' strike — might have played in an incident that left a Grade 5 student brain damaged.

This is what happens in very large classes with special needs students. A child is not getting immediate help. The teacher doesn't know her students well. The article states that this large, heavily loaded class, had between 28 and 30 students, three had autism, and one or two had severe learning disabilities.

Class size, class composition and support for special needs students are the barriers to negotiations between teachers and the B.C. government. They tried to take this away in the past, yet teacher negotiate for a maximum class size in collective agreement, giving up higher pay in lieu.

The B.C. government has been charged and convicted of bad-faith bargaining.

The B.C. school board is compensating the parents, who now need day care, by sending them $40 per day per child. Some parents are donating the money to the union, some to individual teachers who consistently spend their own money topping up thin classroom budgets.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Full-day Kindergarten: an ill-thought out plan

My granddaughter's class has 33 children in a room that isn't big enough. There isn't enough room for the kids to all go to the cubbies at the same time. This will impact on the school day.

I wonder what the building code says. The kids don't all fit into the cubby area at one time. They'll have to get ready to go home in waves. I shudder to think about the stress of lockdown practices, or fire drills, when two adults usher 33 kids out the door in the minute and a half the fire marshalls require.

We cannot afford this type of day care. Nor is it the best plan for our 3 and -year-olds.
Day Care Centres are going to close.
The social and emotional pressures are high in crowded classrooms.

Here are the stats:

 Ontario has staked its reputation on the success of the program, even though critics have characterized it as an expensive form of government-subsidized daycare that the Liberals, facing a $12.5-billion deficit.

  • 640 kindergarten classrooms, or 8 %, had more than 30 children in the past academic year, 
  • One SK classroom at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board had 40 children. The board told The Globe that it ended up dividing the class. 
  • the government is spending more than $1.45-billion in capital costs to expand and retrofit schools, on top of millions in operating dollars.
Pre-school 'worksheets'
this is NOT learning
 In letters to ministry officials, parents described classrooms as “understaffed daycares,” “chaotic,” “overcrowded” and “hostile” environments for learning. One parent opted to put a child in a daycare kindergarten program, which has a lower student-teacher ratio (legislated at 1:8). Another parent kept her four-year-old daughter out of school.

This is art: doing a free drawing.
This is representation of an experience.
This is pre-reading: having a scribe to write your story.

Full steam ahead for full day kindergarten 

September 10, 2014 

The cost of all full day kindergarten projects for this implementation came to $4,100,332, which was a grant allocation from the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My questions about full-day kindergarten

Good old days 
I have written much on this topic. I am most concerned. When they instituted open-concept classrooms in the 70s, all were excited. Teachers were not well-prepared for it and they closed the walls up in the 80s. When they created Whole Language strategies for improving literacy (reading/writing skills), they failed to train staff properly. Not enough people asked questions and many jumped on the bandwagon. They adopted the train-the-trainer model, and teachers sent off for PD were expected to come back and train staff. It failed miserably, since they didn't teach to the very end, where phonics were most important for the at-risk learners. Then, they had to write books on encouraging boys to read.

Even in Day Care Centres, and in Nursery Schools, they limit the numbers of children in a
My 4-year-old granddaughter's class has 33 children. Granted, it is in a newly renovated room, with a fortune in new equipment, and kiddie washrooms, but this is just wrong.
SK class, lots of room for only 20 kids

Parents really need to be asking some questions.  

In my 25 years teaching, armed with a 4-year degree in Early Childhood Education, I found that few teachers were trained in being Kindergarten teachers. They are simply untrained for preschool education, which requires much inservice. They are trained to teach, not facilitate play-based learning. "Today, we are all going to try to print our names." (Which is traditionally left to later years.) Are we hurrying our children too much?

sand box
Read me a story
Too many JK/SK teachers force kids to do printing and other reading skills, and skip the pre-reading skills. The same is true for numeracy. This might be part of the problem with our kids in math. They laud discovery learning in elementary school (proven to be unsuccessful) but fail at this in the kindergarten years.

Day Nurseries Act limits group size

Ny questions for school boards and the Ministry of Education

  1. How many school have put portable in place in order to accommodate and retrofit full-day classrooms for JK/SK?
    free play in the kitchen
  2. What are the learning outcomes for FDK?
  3. What are the prerequisite qualifications for teachers of FDK?
  4. How many unqualified staff, i.e., part-time vice-principals, are teaching FDK?
  5. How many principals are familiar with Day Care and FDK Key Experiences, and appropriate ages and stages?
  6. How are teachers coping with toilet training, or are ECEs taking care of this issue?
  7. How often does bullying occur in FDK? 
  8. Are staff trained to recognize the signs of stress in preschoolers, e.g., regression in toileting behaviour, biting, lack of control, and anger management issues in young children?
  9. Why is it that FDK can violate the well-researched Day Nurseries Act, which applies to preschool-aged children (20 children per classroom)?
  10. How have they shown that having one teacher and one ECE in a classroom is justifiable according to good pedagogy? 
    role play
  11. Why are FDK classes funded based on a class size of 26 children, when many have far more than this?
  12. How well do FDK teachers work with ECE? Is there give and take? Is there respect? This is not always the case in many classes with, for example, Educational Assistants.
  13. How are FDK students nutritional needs being supervised? Day Care provides hot meals.
  14. What happens when FDK children become sick and there is a need for parents to leave work, and come and pick them up? We know preschoolers are germ factories. 
  15. Are children required to visit each learning centre or are they able to make their own choices?
  16. Can kids, who need to, take a nap? Many fall asleep on the bus ride home. 
  17. How can two staff manage 33 kids in a lockdown or a fire drill?
  18. These suggested schedule, see below (The Full-Day EarlyLearning–Kindergarten Program, 2010–11.), suggest that kids must be learning all day. Is this not overextending the children who need to just be?
  19. Are FDK staff prepared to do identify special needs children and accommodate accordingly?
  20. Are children attending assemblies?
    Principals do not understand
    preschool education strategies.
    This in one heck of a long day, even for me. I was usually in school form 7 a.m. until 3:30. That's all I could stand.
    learn, learn, learn from 7 - 9 a.m.
    learn, learn, learn from 3:30 -  6:00 p.m.
    A preschool is a complex child,
    who needs more than science and tech information

  1. Ministry Propaganda - not based in Early Childhood Standards

  2. Classes under the government's full-day kindergarten program differ from other primary classes by having two educators – one teacher and one early childhood educator – working side-by-side during the day in the classroom. Full-day kindergarten classes are funded based on an average of 26 students per class or a ratio of 13 students to an adult.
    Smaller Class Sizes - Ontario

    Feb 23, 2012 - In 2008-09, we reached our goal of all primary classes having 23 or fewer students and 90% ... Why not limit all primary classes to 20 students? 
  3. The Extended-Day Program – Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program (draft)

    The Full-Day Early Learning–Kindergarten program consists of six areas of 

    learning – Personal and Social Development, Language, Mathematics, Science and

    Technology, Health and Physical Activity, and the Arts. These areas of learning are
    based on five developmental domains – social, emotional, communication/language,
    cognitive, and physical. The “big ideas” given with the six areas of learning are
    the broad, important understandings that children should retain from their
    participation in the Full-Day Early Learning–Kindergarten program. The chart 
    on page 2 illustrates the relationship between the areas of learning, developmental
    domains, and big ideas. For details of the program, see The Full-Day Early

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Debate around Full-day Kindergarten still rages

Play-based learning is nothing new. Activity-based learning, discovery learning for math programs, all have shown some issues and an impact on students in later years. FDK isn't any new curriculum. It does duplicate the Primary years curriculum, and rather than focusing on pre-literacy and pre-numeracy, these kids are being whipped into shape, skipping many of the joys that can be had in open-concept, open-ended activity centres.

 They are learning routines, how to walk in a line, how to behave in an assembly of 200 kids, listening to bells go off every 40 minutes. These are the Key Experiences that kids should learn in JK/AK, not reading and writing.

Kindergarten teachers think this is a creative craft.
They all look the same., pre-cut butterflies.
Classification, seriation, representation, expressive and receptive language appropriate for their age
 and stages. Playing with hands-on activities, running, touching, playing with water, sand, cooking, listening to music, singing, making rhymes, cutting and pasting, role play. Even their art work all looks the same in JK/SK classrooms. It isn't open-ended, personal expressions. Teacher precut materials in order for the kids to all have a piece of art work that looks acceptable.
Grandkid's art

It's not so much that kids are 'mastering' gr. 1/2 curriculum. The likely problem is the JK and SK teachers are using gr. 1/2 curriculum in the JK/SK settings. I saw this with my own daughter, now 35 years old, who entered Kindergarten knowing how to read. She did endless worksheets where she circled all the things that were red.

Learning to read involves much pre-reading prep, and identification of letters and numbers. We didn't teach them to write their names until later in SK. These kids come to school, from families who work at this, already printing their names, doing art work, using scissors, and coloured pencils, rather than crayons.

My other issue with FDK is the size of the classes. My granddaughter is 4 and she is going into a class of 30 JK/AK students. Granted there is one teacher and two ECEs (to provide before and after-school care, as well) but what a zoo this will be. They don't know how they will cope. How do you do crowd control for a group of 30 kids? ECEs are used to having a Day Care ratio of 1:8.
Some of these kids aren't fully toilet trained. Some are still 3 years old, in a class with kids as old as 5. How does one encourage activty-based learning, free play, when they are going to have to monitor the numbers of kids in the activity centre, block centre, art centre, dress-up centre, book centre?
This massive experiment, in lieu of good day care, is having an impact on our wee ones. I fear for their generation.

Full-day kindergarten (FDK) impacts Grades 1, 2

Ontario kindergarten students are so ahead in their learning that it's prompting school boards to revisit the curriculum for subsequent grades. [Kristin Rushowy  ]

With the final phase of the full-day rollout happening this week, school boards say that over the past five years of implementation, they’ve had one big kinder surprise: teachers in Grades 1 and 2 now find their lessons no longer work for children steeped in play-based learning — kids who are more confident, ask more questions and who are used to setting the agenda in the classroom.
The Ontario government now plans to expand play- and inquiry-based learning throughout the elementary years as part of its new action plan.
Ontario Rolls Out FDK
Not all the full-day kindergarten classrooms are currently available, though the program is now fully rolled out, according to Ontario Education Minister Liz sandals. There are 265,000 kids enrolled this fall in the program for four- and five-year-olds at 3,600 schools. (CBC)
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