Power Teaching Classroom Inquiry

The First Nine Weeks of School

While I have made no posts in eight weeks, I have been Power Teaching.  I can’t say that I have been perfectly consistent and on track, but I can say this is the best behaved class I have ever had.  I don’t think that has to do with the mix of kids completely.  It has to do with Power Teaching.  Replacing “pulling strips” or checkmarks with rehearsals has been liberating.  I never liked constantly pointing out student failures in following the rules.  Now I emphasize what the rules are and the students can take it from there.  They enjoy reciting the rules with gestures and often point out opportunities to follow them:  “Ms. Brandon, picking up paper towels in the bathroom is showing respect to our school.”  “Ms. Brandon, picking up someone else’s pencils or papers shows respect to others.”  Rule Four, “Respect others.  Respect yourself. Respect your school.” is the hardest one for them to recite, but it’s their favorite one to exemplify.

I have been neglectful of micro lessons, but I’ll be focusing more on them in the coming weeks.  Their value, especially the gestures, become evident every time I try one.  I taught the terms Realistic Fiction and Fantasy with gestures of a rock (fist) pounding into their hand and wiggley finger fairy wings up by their heads.  They still have some trouble coming up with the words “realistic fiction”, but they can label a story with the rock gesture without fail.  “Fantasy” is no problem at all.  This is a big change from classes in the past.  I’ve often had difficulty getting them to understand which is which.  With the gestures, the distinction is crystal clear.

I have also used micro lessons to emphasize reading strategies.  This has been extremely useful during silent reading times and testing.  I can silently give the gesture for “good readers re-read when they don’t understand” and the students are better able to answer their own questions.

My biggest problem right now is coming up with the gestures!  I’m tempted to see if I can get the students to come up with some of them, once we are better accustomed to the whole idea.  They can often come up with something that they can relate to better than I can.  Then again, there is always a lot of silliness to weed through first.  In a perfect world (which I intend to create in the next few years) I’d like to find ways that relate particular gestures to each other.  For example, all book genre gestures would have something in common.  I’m trying to make sure that all of the “good reader” strategies begin  with “A good reader. . .” so that they can run through them automatically and incorporate them into their habitual reading behavior.

I’ll be interested in seeing how “teach-okay” develops.  Right now, my second graders need to have a very specific micro-lesson to teach and they essentially recite it in chorus when they “teach”.  I usually need to get them going by talking over them at first.  Some students are VERY slow to do their part.  We’ll have recited 3 times before they join in.  I believe that is a GOOD thing.  They need the extra time to listen a few times before they feel confident enough to chime in.

So, there’s plenty to do, but we’ve accomplished a lot too.  I’m very pleased with our progress and look forward to seeing improvements in the future.

The First Week of School

Day Four: Our efforts continue to pay off. Rule 2 has been fabulous. Instead of nagging students to hurry up, my reminders to “Follow directions quickly” have been well received and followed. I’ve observed students doing silent versions of rules to each other when someone is misbehaving. They use the gestures and communicate non-verbally, causing less interruption.

Just to record them, here are our rules:

Rule 1: Wait for permission to speak.

Rule 2: Follow directions quickly.

Rule 3: Listen when the teacher is talking.

Rule 4: Respect others, respect yourself, respect your school.

Rule 5: Be safe. Be honest.

Some of the students are getting more comfortable with their surroundings, not in a good a way. I can begin to see some acting out and the rules are going to get a lot of rehearsals. I may bring the scoreboard into play tomorrow, a day earlier than I had planned.

The First Week of School

Day Three: I did a lot of think overnight and refined the rules and gestures that I wanted in place. After completing our Math lesson, I decided to go ahead and teach the rest of the rules. Once again, the videos really paved the way. They were eager and ready and learn and respond. We practiced together and then students were allowed to show what they know by demonstrating one rule or more. As each one stood up and demonstrated, other hands shot up to do the same. The whole process seemed to snowball and they all had the rules down in no time. The icing on the cake was when Mr. Jones, the principal, came in as we were doing some of our final practice. He seemed very impressed and I was delighted that we were so much further along than I expected. We had discussed the significance of each rule and throughout the day, students would point out examples of showing respect to others and respect to our school as well as being safe and honest. I have foregone the scoreboard for the time being in order to focus on understanding the rules. They are aware of the scoreboard concept but we’ll emphasize it more next week.

The First Week of School

Day Two: We did a lot of rehearsing today. Rule 1 was our main focus first thing. I showed the Power Teaching video from kindergarten and the students were interested. When I had them view the college video, I really got their attention. I stopped it at intervals to discuss each concept. As we went through it, I could sense that we were getting excited, so we just went ahead and took the plunge. I introduced the scoreboard, the mighty oh yeah and the mighty groan and they were extremely enthusiastic. I went ahead and taught them rule two – Follow directions quickly. They loved the speed at which I required their response. Rules 1 and 2 were now well in hand. Since they had seen the video, they understood the class/yes and had no difficulty in responding correctly. We made a lot of progress.

The First Week of School

Day One: The first day of school is always a mixture of frazzled nerves, paperwork flurries, and sleepy, weepy children. While second graders do have an advantage over the kindergartners as far as familiarity with the building and routine, they are still children in new surroundings. They start out a little shy, a little quiet and a lot tired after their glorious summer. I began power teaching halfway through the day with only one rule: Wait for permission to speak. They were a little timid at first with making the gestures, but caught on quickly. The rule was repeated frequently throughout the day and I had decided to do one rule each day through the week. At the very end of the day, we tried a little bit of “class/yes” which was less than inspiring. Take it slowly. It’s a busy week.

Parent Orientation: We had an hour of parent orientation the day after registration. The turnout was low but I showed the Power Teaching videos to familiarize the parents with the program. They seemed receptive and I enjoyed sharing how well it had gone last year. I especially enjoyed sharing the micro lesson concept. I hope that I’ll have video of their students to show at parent teach conferences

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 2:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Power Teaching as Classroom Inquiry

As part of the West Tennessee Writing Project, my Classroom Inquiry will involve Power Teaching, the classroom management and learning program promoted by Dr. Chris Biffle at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. His homepage is homepage.mac.com/chrisbiffle/Personal17.html

Power Teaching provides techniques for focusing student attention, building classroom community, focused skill and task instructions and differentiated instruction through gestures, student sharing, listening, laughter and fun.

I discovered power teaching at the end of the ’07-’08 school year and just had to try it out. We only had three weeks of school left, but those three weeks are typically difficult each year for a two reasons: The school year is finishing and testing requires changes in routines and the school year is finishing and the kids are ready for summer. Generally speaking, these two things work against each other. Discipline begins to be more of a problem, just when students need to focus for the finish.

Power Teaching proved to be the perfect tool to keep my class together to avoid the end of the year disintegration. Students enjoyed the techniques, caught on quickly and benefited academically from the thirty second micro lessons. I was surprised and delighted at how well they retained the information from the micro lessons. The only challenge for me was coming up with the gestures to go with those lessons.

I took the opportunity as a Focal Team member at the WTWP Summer Institute, to introduce the teachers participating to Power Teaching. Their classrooms ranged from kindergarten through college and they were all quite intrigued. As the month went on, we all adopted the class/yes technique to bring the class back to attention during different activities. Everyone was quite inspired when they viewed the Teacher Tube video with Chris Biffle teaching pre-service teachers about Power Teaching.

I hope that as I progress in my classroom inquiry, I will be able to convey how the process has unfolded during the new school year. My end of the year experience was somewhat different since there was plenty of groundwork that had already been established between my students and I. I anticipate that my new students will be somewhat shy about participating at first, just as the adults at WTWP were initially. I look forward to seeing how this all turns out.