PAX Good Behaviour Game

Does anyone else use the PAX Good Behaviour Game in their classrooms? It comes from the PAXIS Institute and our school is one in our district which have begun using it on a trial basis.

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I will admit that I was skeptical at first as to how well it would work; but I’ve found it working very well. For me, in a year-round classroom, school begins again in a couple of weeks and my goal for this year is to implement PAX more often in the classroom. It recommends playing three times a day, but last year I only played about three or four times a week. So one of my goals for the upcoming year is to begin playing twice a day and hopefully three times a day by the time the end of year rolls around.

I began last year, even before playing games in my classroom, by using the harmonica that comes with the kit. Even using just that, I noticed a difference in my students’ attention. The harmonica is much less aggressive than a bell or whistle (and obviously less aggressive than yelling), and they all hear and respond very well to it.

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One of the concerns I had before beginning, was that I feared the game and prizes were geared toward very young students. I teach grade 4, and the kids are still young, but I worried they might be too mature to enjoy some of the PAX lingo and the silly prizes. To my surprise, not only was a wrong, even the sixth graders in our school and junior high students in other schools enjoy the terms and prizes (this genuinely shocked me).

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I’m still planning out if I should use other behaviour tools this year. I always use a sticker chart, but that’s it. I’m not a big fan of behaviour charts because I find that something that public can hurt kids’ self esteem, especially those with ADHD (which our school population has a lot of).

I guess the new year will see what else I implement! Yay for trial and error!

KIAT Book Club: Becoming a Better Teacher Ch.1

The latest book I’d like to talk about is one I found in our school resource library one day while I was looking for Math resources; Becoming a Better Teacher: Eight Innovations That Work by Giselle O. Martin-Kniep. The title struck me immediately because, obviously, I’m always looking for ways to become a better teacher!

Sweet new library book to read!
Sweet new library book to read!

The book discusses eight teaching innovations, so I’ll be talking about each innovation during my upcoming posts and sharing my thoughts. So let’s begin with the first innovation: The Power of Essential Questions.

The book begins by talking about how students feel that school is
“devoid of any meaningful content”. This hits home with me as it was something that I focused on during all of my curriculum development during my B.Ed. I wanted to make content meaningful to students, not just because it would make school more fun, but because things that interest us and we are passionate about are much easier for us to remember.

Chapter One
Chapter One

Essential questions are those that deal with, what I refer to as “universal questions”. These were something I talked about a lot of High School English because students could not understand why they were not getting As for simple regurgitating the plots of Shakespearian plays to me; they didn’t understand that I didn’t want them to tell me what happened, I wanted them to use what happened to draw comparisons to universal truths or big questions.

Some essential questions the book talks about are things like “is there anything original?” and “are we really free?”; things that make people (not just students) really think.

The chapter delves into how these questions can be used and has some great ideas. From starting units, to introducing assignments, to aiding in assessment. Essentially (see what I did there?), essential questions aide in our ability to apply our learning to our reality, removing the void between school and life and making education more meaningful and enjoyable.

I know I’m only one chapter into the book thus far, but so far I’m finding it enjoyable and worthwhile. If you want to buy it, here’s the Amazon link.

Imagination Questions

I stumbled across these amazing cards one day when an education assistant found them in our school library. I can’t stop singing their praises because I can see them being great for pretty much all age groups.

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One of my centres for English Language Arts is writing, in which I give the kids a prompt and have them write and/or draw pictures, depending on their abilities. My prompts were simple questions like “What are some of your favourite sports?” which I would write on the board. These worked well, especially at the beginning of the year when most of my kids needed very simplistic questions they could easily answer. However, as we progressed through the year, they became a bit boring and simply had me assessing how well students could answer basic questions and their time management skills. It didn’t let me assess creativity or critical thinking in any way.

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These Imagination Cards have great prompts that allow kids to be creative and to really think about how they could answer the various questions. Further, you could definitely use them for elementary, junior high, and even high school and simply alter how you assess the final product.

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Obviously, I am obsessed with these cards! I’m on the hunt for similar products. If you want to buy these, here’s the link to Amazon.

KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 6

Well, we’ve come to the last chapter of The Resilience Revolution.

The Resilience Revolution: Discovering the Strengths in Challenging Kids
The Resilience Revolution: Discovering the Strengths in Challenging Kids

This chapter was quote short as it didn’t introduce any huge concepts, but more so wrapped up what was previously discussed.

The chapter talks about putting everything we’ve discussed together and helping kids recognize their purpose in life. It discusses how individualistic our Western society is and how it is isolating and can prevent us from recognizing our power within to help others.

Narcissism is predominant throughout our society and often hits hardest in our teen years. Learning to use our lives and our abilities to help the world is one of the best things we can do for others and, ironically, ourselves as it creates a real happiness and worth.

This was a short entry, I know. The chapter itself was quite short. Overall, though, now that we have completed the book I can say that I highly recommend it to all teachers or employees who work with difficult kids.

If you want to buy the book, here’s the link to Amazon.

KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 5

Hello again! We’re on chapter five now and talking about helping youths recognize their own power. This chapter reminded me of a Professional Development session I attended a couple months ago which discussed disciplining kids. In order for any type of discipline to be effective, it has to be meaningful and the kids have to take responsibility for their actions.

This chapter delves into how to help troubled students discover their own power and take responsibility for their lives and their actions.

In the classroom reading selfie!
In the classroom reading selfie!

When kids feel like they have power, and can make change, and that their lives are meaningful, that’s when they will want to make changes to better themselves and their world.

This is a challenging this to do and I feel like the book handles it too simplistically. It sets out clear and “common-sense” tips, but then includes snippets of created dialogue between teens and adults that are simply unrealistic.

I agree with what the book is attempting to say overall in this chapter, but think that more practical examples would have been beneficial.

On a positive note, the book addresses how many positive and correct things youths do every day that are ignored, which we need to recognize and appreciate, especially if we expect them to listen to any criticism we may have. No one wants to feel as if they are being inundated about their flaws constantly when in fact we are simply not acknowledging their many accomplishments.

Last chapter is coming up in two weeks! Then on to a new book! If you want to buy this book, here’s the link to Amazon.

Nine Types of Intelligence

As I talked about in my most recent book post, one thing which really struck me was the discussion of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

Howard Gardner’s Nine Intelligences

Teaching at a school for kids with Learning Disabilities, I like to begin the year by discussing these intelligences. Most of my students have come from schools where they’ve been bullied and have felt inferior and out-of-place because of their LDs and talking about these different types of intelligence helps them to see that everyone is smart in different ways.

Depending on the level of kids, you can also find a bunch of online assessments to see what intelligences they are strongest in. This is interesting for them and can also help you plan out strategies to help reach them throughout the year. Here are some links to a few assessments I like:

Literacy Net

Queendom

Edutopia

Having kids recognize their strengths can also work in helping them start thinking about future careers. I find this helpful in relating school to their future aspirations and removing the so oft heard “why do I need to go to school anyway?” comment from classrooms. Here’s a very simple example of how the intelligences relate to possible future career choices.

KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 4

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Hello, and welcome to our discussion of chapter four! For those just joining in, we’re reading The Resilience Revolution by Larry K. Brendtro and Scott J. Larson.

This chapter is titled “Nurturing Talent” and, unsurprisingly, it talks about how to best aid troubled youths in finding what they’re good at.

This chapter really struck me as someone who teaches kids with Learning Disabilities. When they first enter our school, my very first goal is to help them enjoy school again. They’ve spent years falling behind and feeling like they aren’t smart enough or good enough, and it’s sometimes difficult for them to see that they are smart and able, they just weren’t in programs that met their needs before.

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I think this chapter and the first are the ones that have really hit me and really inspired me to try even harder to reach kids. To feel talentless, like we cannot perform anything correctly, or like our lives have no purpose is one of the first steps into a downward spiral; what’s keeping us from making bad choices and throwing our lives away?

Also discussed here is Howard Gardner’s Nine Types of Intelligences, which is something that I absolutely love and like to discuss with my students when they first come to our specialized school; showing them that we are all “smarter” in different ways and knowing those ways we can find strategies to help us in school. In fact, I think I’d like to discuss these intelligences further in its own post, maybe next week?

Anyway, I would recommend this book to all educators simply for this and chapter one (the rest is good too, but those are the real clinchers for me). If you’re like to purchase the book, here’s the link to Amazon.