Power Teaching – Sharing the Joy

Yesterday was the immersion day for the Summer Institute for the West Tennessee Writing Project.  I made a presentation about Graphic Live Maps.  Of course, I had to add Power Teaching to the mix.  Everyone seemed very receptive to both ideas and I expect to be able to continue talking about Power Teaching when the Institute begins in June.  It was interesting to see how the adults in this group responded compared to the adults in Chris Biffle’s college crowd.  These folks were all meeting for the first time and there was a great deal of shyness.  I’m going to keep that in mind for the beginning of the year with my new 2nd graders.  They may show the same reticence to act crazy and their responses may be quiet at first.

Our new group for Summer Institute is quite varied and I can’t wait to get started. I only hope that I can make the experiences as wonderful for them as it was for me.  I’ll do my best.

Published in: on May 18, 2008 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Power Teaching – This and That

This has been quite a wild week. One of those “tell me again why the children are here” kind of weeks. We have a play day at the park and a play day at school scheduled. We’ve finished our Reading book. The final test in Reading was given Monday. I’m juggling the usual end of the year flurry of paperwork while trying to teach.

Power Teaching has really been a lifesaver. Getting the students together to hit the road with a classity class is fun. Practicing for the unit test with a few teach/okays was extremely beneficial. Our play day for tomorrow was cancelled at the last minute of the day due to expected weather. I know my class will go home and give accurate information because they turned to their neighbor and said, “It’s too bad our play day was cancelled but we’ll have one next week.”

At least half the wing is already very interested in starting to Power Teach next year. The weird thing though is that they seem to enjoy using MY class to practice! The other kids are catching on. I think I’ll start classalicious classing THEM tomorrow.

Published in: on May 15, 2008 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Power Teaching – Day 5: Power Learning

Well, it’s Friday, and we’ve flown through a week of Power Teaching.  After a false start, I managed to get with the program and the students have followed right along.  Today was NOT a normal day of teaching.  We got some tests out of the way first thing because I knew a student had to leave at 9:00.  In addition to his absence, there were 4 others absent.  That made only 13 left of my 18.  My morning also included 90 minutes of IEP meetings where my assistant was in charge of the class.  Then, I left for lunch early because we had be given the once a year privilege to leave campus for an hour.  I enjoyed a terrific time with my colleagues.  Oh yes, and then we had Music too.

Out of our normal 4 hour morning with 18 students, I only spent an hour and a half with 13 students and half of that time was spent testing.  Sounds like there might not be any revelations about Power Teaching. HAH!  There’s a part of Power Teaching that I really hadn’t thought about – Power Learning.  My students, every one of them, did better on their Reading selection test than ever before.  As I graded the tests, I noticed how well my higher achieving students did.  While they usually do well, this time they all scored 100%.  Then I realized that mixed in with those 100’s were tests from my on grade level AND some below level students.  Once I had them all graded, I had to stop and take a breath.  Was this a story that the students were highly involved with? No.  Did they have a great deal of prior knowledge?  No, on the contrary, the story Jingle Dancer was about a Native American girl preparing for her first dance at a Pow Wow.  I was surprised that none of my students even knew what a Pow Wow was since we have a large Choctaw community in our county.

I know that it was my teaching and their response that made the difference.  In these days of ‘teaching to the test’, Power Teaching is an incredibly useful tool.  Much of the testing we do these days seems to cover skills in isolation.  Using focused micro lessons, I can reinforce those chunks of learning that the tests assess.

Next week is just plain stupid – we are at the park Tuesday and have a whole day, play day on Thursday.  In between though, I’ll be preparing for and giving the final unit test.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  I haven’t decided how best to do it yet, but I think I’ll review and test one section at a time.  Each section is quite different from the next so it will be a challenge to determine just what my micro lessons will consist of.  It will be a great review for my students and great practice for me.

Published in: on May 10, 2008 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Day 4 – How sweet it is!

At long long last, Richard knows how to keep his dear teacher happy.Teacher appreciation week is this week and we’ve had the usual cake and punch and the unusual hour for lunch, but this is the best expression of the day I’ve ever had. We had finished a Math lesson using white boards and the students were allowed to draw a picture. We had just finished a quick discussion about what we thought about the new crazy things Ms. Brandon has been doing in class. Suddenly, there a spontaneous explosion of love notes to me on the white boards: each one different, expressed in a different way. This one though, from one of my most challenging students brings tears to my eyes. His response to Power Teaching, with its high level of student engagement, has been miraculous. I’ve never been so pleased! Now, looks like we need a micro lesson on forms of be.

Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Power Teaching – Day 2 and 3, Glory Be!

So, I took Dr. Biffle’s advice and HOLY MOLE GUACAMOLE! It worked! Tuesday was an awesome day. We focused on ONE RULE: #3 Wait for permission to speak. We made up gestures and practiced and when people broke the rule, instead of going for an instant frownie face, we all chanted and gestured rule #3. WE HAD FIVE FROWNIES AND FIVE SMILIES! EVEN STEVEN! They missed NO recess but still had a goal of getting some extra. At first it looked as though they MIGHT get an extra minute and, to my surprise, they were incredibly impressed (just as Dr. Bissle had foreseen). Unfortunately, that didn’t work our, but we had a goal for the next day.

Teaching using 30 second micro lessons has been different, exhilarating and perfect for end of the day review. We go through a lot material, breaking it down into the most important itty bits for teach/okay. They now understand teach/okay and when I tell them, “You are about to turn your neighbor and tell them . . .” they are LOCKED on me to see exactly what they should teach and to get gesture suggestions. This is FANTASTIC.

I’ve been sharing with other teachers and they’ve been seeing my kids in action and are really interested in trying it too. One teacher came by to ask something and she couldn’t help herself – she just had to see if my class would class/yes to HER – AND THEY DID!

Wednesday, Day 3, went even better and they earned an extra minute of recess! While one of my challenging students was sent home on Day 2, she managed to keep it together today and NO ONE became particularly disruptive. Today we were focusing on rule #1 Pay attention to your work. but we never did get the gestures going and really chant. Oh well, tomorrow. I think I’ll change that rule for next year to make it more “gesture-friendly”. All in all, a fabulous day!

Published in: on May 7, 2008 at 7:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Power Teaching – Day 2 Startin’ Over

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!  I e-mailed the fearless leader of Power Teaching, Dr. Chris Biffle and told him how my day went and was informed that I had made a mess of things (somehow I KNEW that already).  Dr. Biffle informed me that I made

“great effort for the first day … but you made A MAJOR MISTAKE … the plus/minus three rule is that the smilies should never be greater than 3 than the frownies or vice versa.  Also, you don’t mark every single thing … just whenever you want to send them a message … I’ve never heard of “30 more frownies than smilies”!  No!  No!  Five to 10 marks on each side for about half a day is great … you don’t want to over stimulate them with either rewards or penalties … so, now you can say, “Yesterday was an introduction … but now we’re going to play for real … this is Level 1” and then write down Level 1 on the board … only work on one rule for reward/penalty … say, follow directions quickly … so they are only getting points when you’re asking them to line up, get out pencil and paper, hand in papers, etc … and keep the points close … for the whole class to lose a whole recess is UNHEARD OF!  The most anyone loses is one or two minutes … it is not the size of the penalty that changes behavior but the frequency … don’t worry about your disruptive kids (we can deal with them later) … just keep the points close … invent reasons to give a reward if you have to … “oh, that group back there was very fast” … and DON’T GO TO THE INDEPENDENTS YET!!!   Just work on teach/okay, the scoreboard and the rules … you’re going way to fast … but going to “Level 1” tomorrow is a good strategy because then you can erase anything you did first day as “introduction”.”

Published in: on May 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Power Teaching – Day 1

You could market Power Teaching as a weight loss tool.  I did so much running back and forth to the scoreboard today that I’ll bet I lost 10 pounds.

Things started well.  They took to class/yes very well.  They thought the scoreboard was fine.  The mighty groan and oh yeah went well too. . . for a while.***

The most interesting thing was the teach/okay.  They JUST DIDN’T GET IT.  They liked saying okay in the way I said teach, and then some of them would turn to a neighbor but then it would fall apart or more accurately, stop dead.  We tried it a few times with different micro lessons and still it wasn’t working.  Finally, we made it to Library time and I could re-group.

After Library, we did a re-cap of where we were on the scoreboard.  Later about that.
It wasn’t until after lunch that I realized  – THEY JUST DON’T GET THAT WHEN WE DO TEACH/OKAY THE ARE SUPPOSED TO TALK.  duh
Once I figured that out, things went much better, much much better.  At the end of the day they were gesturing and everything.

That was awesome!

This was awful:  my 3 most challenging students seemed to stay with me at first, but that ended after about 45 minutes.  They continued to regress into their previous patterns.  Now, I do have to give them SOME credit.  They were sitting at tables with other students after having been isolated nearly all year.  So I suppose they actually made progress.  Unfortunately, their incredibly poor ability to control themselves caused the class to loose their entire recess.  There was really no way to ignore their frowny face behavior.  By lunch, there were 30 more frowny faces than smiley. ***This is how the Mighty Groan had become unpopular.  On the other hand, the rest of the class had ‘first day’ behavior (all kids behave well on the first day of school).  Peer pressure wasn’t working and I JUST COULDN’T PUNISH THE WHOLE CROWD DUE TO THE THREE.

I had read about ‘The Independents’ in one of the files, so I discussed that possibility with them and even sent one of them to sit by himself for a while.  He was able to rejoin later.  Anyway, I ended up with three write-ups and brought them to the office for recess.  It really was unavoidable. The principal ended up seeing them and . . .

Anyway, they received consequences which I don’t agree with but NOW I’ve got something to work with tomorrow.  We have all talked about what we need to do to avoid repeating today’s behavior problems.

So we’ve been from awesome to awful and back again.

Tomorrow’s plan includes:
1.  working out gestures to go with our rules and throwing them into rehearsal.  It will re-emphasize and reinvigorate our rules.  We’d gotten so familiar with them that they had just become numbers.  I think I may videotape them for next year too.  (Of course, my students LOVE to watch themselves.)

2. moving the scoreboard so I don’t have to keep running back and forth (although I should really move it further away so I DO loose weight!)

3.  taking a long hard look at my lesson plans and determining what the micro lessons are

4.  continuing to rehearse – I award smiley faces whenever I MAKE A MISTAKE and I made a lot of them today!  I kept saying eyes and hands instead of hands and eyes


May I lapse philosophically here. . . #3 is my own paradigm shift (Structure of Scientific Revolution, I think was one of my favorite books).  I’ve been focused on differentiated instruction and making lessons accessible to varied learners but I had totally lost sight of the actual CONTENT of the lessons.  I will really need to break things apart into 30-second bits.  This will absolutely revolutionize my teaching.  I’m not really sure how to express how much impact this has made on me.  I feel like I’ve been missing the obvious.  At the same time, there are certain areas which will not be able to be boiled down to a simple 30 second lesson . . no. . no . .  I take that back —— the practice takes longer, but the POINT should be brief.  I’m telling you I’m really having more of a paradigm meltdown here than a shift!  Thank goodness summer break is on the way, so I can think this all out.

So, all in all the day was fabulous AND horrid AND my feet hurt.  What else can a girl hope for?  I hope my update is better tomorrow.  I’ll have my OWN 90 pages written before I finish the week I fear.

Published in: on May 7, 2008 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Power Teaching

I enjoy teaching because there’s always something new coming down the pike.  My latest discovery comes from Chris Biffle and it’s called Power Teaching.  They are simple techniques for classroom management that I believe will be fantastic for my class.  We’ve only got got 3 weeks left, but I can’t wait to try it out tomorrow.  There’s neat video of kindergarten class in action at:


Search for Chris Biffle on teachertube and you’ll see 8 other videos.  My favorite is one in which he is teaching the techniques to college students while using the techniques on them.  It seems very doable and appropriate for all age levels.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Published in: on May 4, 2008 at 11:46 pm  Comments (1)