Friday, January 14, 2011

Just the Right Amount of Challenge

I've been thinking quite a bit about creating just the right amount of challenge and even "stress" for learning as I've been reading a lot about "good stress" in helping kids strive to be their best.
What are your thoughts?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Important Ways a Positive Climate Can Impact Learning

I am so excited, and to be honest, completely and utterly nervous, to be presenting on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at the Reform Symposium Worldwide e.conference!

Below you can watch the interview of introduction done a few days ago with my wonderful friend Greta in Argentina. I loved talking to Greta, but I think that in the self-consciousness of being video-interviewed, I missed sharing some ideas about what I hope to discuss in my brief 30 minute presentation!

In any case, here are 10 points I hope to address in next week's interactive discussion in Elluminate. I hope you will join me!
  1. Positive emotions "broaden and build" our capacity to think. For more information, check out one of my favorite researchers, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity. 
  2. We can teach our students the value of positive thought patterns and how to control the downhill slide that happens when stress or anger short circuit our thinking.
  3. Routines and classroom rituals can be mindfully designed to elicit more positive experiences which make school a place kids want to go.
  4. Celebrating mistakes, through modeling and discussion, can go a long way in reducing fear and encouraging students to take risks in learning.
  5. Novelty is a powerful force in awakening parts of the brain involved in memory storage. Why not start a lesson dressed up as a literary character?
  6. Positivity does not mean being happy all of the time. What it means is that by carefully creating an environment that seizes opportunities to promote learning in a fun way, we can then raise the bar and push our students to learn at their highest potential. 
  7. Relationships that are built in a safe learning community can handle the necessary self-reflection, constructive criticism, and peer feedback that lead to growth and development. 
  8. Test stresses and other issues related to grades and standards can be mitigated through humor.  Before our "big" standardized writing test, I took pictures of students peering over privacy screens making the silliest, most terrified faces. The laughter that followed as we looked at the pictures helped us keep the test in perspective. 
  9. Celebration Smores: after our big week-long battery of standardized tests, I suprised the students with "celebration smores." They made funny faces out of mini marshmallows and choc chips on their graham crackers. Some students took the opportunity to try and melt their smores in the sunshine! 
  10. Students love jobs related to promoting a positive classroom environment. In my class, the weekly environment engineer may share a humorous, fascinating, awe-inspiring video clip, photo or story with the class.
    I would love to hear your thoughts and stories about the power of creating a positive learning environment. Care to share?