What Works in Education? Let’s Do That!

what works in education It’s an exciting day around here because it’s the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Oh boy!

I love this time of year. January 1st means little to me. For those of us who call ourselves educators, the “new year” starts when the school buses start rolling again. Everyone is fresh-faced and full of excitement. For those of us who teach, it’s a chance to reinvent ourselves and our methods once again.

I’m back to full steam with this little blog too- as usual, I have more ideas for you than time. As I sat down over the weekend to gather my thoughts, I filled a page with things I want to share with you; new research, puppet ideas, movement based lessons, arts integration concepts… wowee!

Ultimately though, I kept coming back to a little slogan that popped into my mind and wouldn’t go away.

It’s nothing earth-shattering at all. Ready?

“What works? Let’s do that.”

I think it came to me when I was listening to my mom (who is a high school principal at a school of almost 4,000 students- yes that is four thousand) prepare her opening remarks for her faculty. She was recalling the teacher who made the biggest impact on her during her high school years (back in the early 1960s.) The teacher implemented these practices:

1. Learning was a highly social endeavor. My mom recalls that students were frequently put into groups or pairs to work together. Very little work/thinking was done in isolation.

2. Learning related to current culture. The teacher found ways to connect content to events and information that was current with the culture. She harnessed student interest areas and curiosity.

3. Learning was active. Even though the class was a social studies class, my mom recalls that they rarely sat at desks. The teacher often asked the students to stand or move around.

4. The teacher was passionate about connecting to her students on a personal level and valued a positive sense of community in her classroom.

5. “Work”/ assignments operated within the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Students were required to THINK. Words used to describe the kinds of work done by the students would be research, decide, judge, evaluate, present, debate, create, and persuade.

This was back in the 60s, friends. And yet, it’s all still considered “best practice” today.

While many things in education seem to change at warp speed, some things haven’t changed at all. Good teaching is good teaching.

As you start your new year, put this question in your mind. What works?

Be brutally honest with your answer.

Does the 30 minutes your students spend on “morning work” each day bear rewards in terms of your classroom community and student growth? If not, replace it with something that does.

Does your behavior management system work? If not, change it!

Does your current writing curriculum produce writers who can generate ideas, compose thoughtful and clear pieces, and write passionately for a variety of audiences? If it doesn’t, try a new approach.

Figure out what works, and then do that!

To inspire you, here are a few things that work for me (and many others.)

1- Be intentional about building a strong classroom community. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for a successful school year. It is my key to effective classroom management.

Build classroom community through the responsive classroom

2- Plan experiences that provide authentic, “real world” learning for students. I’ve talked about this topic a good deal. One of my  most popular posts is 7 Ideas for Replacing Worksheets with Wonder.

7 Ideas for Replacing Worksheets with Wonder

Another way to bring authenticity is through “real” projects that integrate multiple curriculum areas. I showcased my friend, Cassie’s, Shoe Store project in the past. You also *must see* Bevin’s Fun-Doh project. It’s a fantastic example of  a project-based experience that is rich with integrated, authentic learning. Love it, Bevin!!!

Cassie Norvell's Shoe Store via Wonder Teacher

3- Arts Integration! The arts are so misunderstood (just like so many artists.) I’ve talked before about the power of the arts to reach and teach our students- especially those who struggle the most. I have a lot more to say about the arts this year so stay tuned.

Arts Integration

4- Movement. Kids need to move. When you connect moving to learning, you have harnessed something powerful. Here are 5 reasons to get kids moving. (And some tips for managing it.)

5 Reasons to Get Students Moving

There are so many other things we could add to the “what works” list. What would you add? What works for your students?

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photo credit: Evil Erin via photopin cc

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  1. So nice to have you back in Blog World!
    I hope your mother’s staff was listening to her social studies experiences and implement those “best practices”- my children will reap the benefits!
    Kendall recently posted..should I walk my child to his class?My Profile

  2. Don Witten says:

    Hello Susan! I just stumbled across your inspiring website. I am a retired English teacher, but I am currently in the early stages of writing a book for the folks at Live In Wonder (liveinwonder.com – their website is currently being revamped, so it’s not up and running, but you can also look at Eric Saperston, their “Chief Creative Officer” website at ericsaperston.com). The book I am working on will focus on the importance of wonder in education – how can we get kids into that state of awe and open-minded receptivity while delivering the important skills necessary for today’s world. Probably more than anything, I’d like to get at the importance of self discovery in children, from K-12 and beyond, so that they end up “following their bliss” as Joseph Campbell told us. Since you are already well down your way of this path, I would love to hear more from you about philosophies, lesson plans, other teachers who teach this way now. I especially like your attitude toward the importance of integrating the arts in education.

    Just a little about me: I live with my wife Jody on a small farm in northwestern Oregon, but I coach girls’ basketball at a small high school in southern Oregon during the winter (our oldest granddaughter is on the team). I taught English and yearbook for 27 years at three different Oregon high schools before retiring in 2013, and now we spend our time hanging with our black lab and our two cats, and pursuing our hobbies, gardening, hiking, and photography. Life is good here!

    Thanks so much, Susan. Keep promoting this in your teaching. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Don Witten

    • Hi Don- Thanks for your message. The book sounds like one I would love to read! It’s a timely topic and the message is much needed in education (in my opinion.) I’d love to stay in touch and share ideas. My email is sbantonelli@bellsouth.net Best wishes on your writing!

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