MAT Blog

9 Ways Students Can Develop a Growth Mindset

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 14, 2014 11:55:00 AM

Last week, Larry Ferlazzo reblogged a photograph of a growth-mindset chart he came across on Twitter. I liked so much that I decided to reformat it into a printable version. To save, simply right click on the image and "save as."

Growth Mindset






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Tags: student recognition, student leadership, mindfulness in the classroom, mindfulness exercises, student independence, student engagement, motivation, growth mindset

Can Dim Lighting Make Our Students More Creative?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 21, 2014 10:43:00 AM

student writingI work in the dark. I mean, it’s not pitch black in my office, but I only flip the switch to those eye-melting fluorescents when I absolutely have to.

It’s unusual, I know—but the fact of the matter is that I work better in dim light. I can’t think or write otherwise and according to a recent study, my quirk may actually have a drop of science to it.

According to the findings of a 2013 study by German researchers Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth, darkness may actually reduce feelings of constraint and spark creativity. Here’s what they reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology.  

One key experiment featured 114 German undergraduates who were seated in groups of two or three in a small room designed to simulate an office. The room was lit by a single fixture hanging directly over the group’s desk. The amount of illumination varied with each group: some received only 150 lux (dim light), others 500 lux (the recommended lighting level for an office), and still others 1,500 lux (bright light).

After a 15-minute acclimation period, each group was asked to work on “four creative insight problems” that required creativity to find a solution. After two minutes, groups were asked to report their level of self-assurance, how free from constraint they felt and the degree to which they felt externally controlled. Here’s what the researchers found:

Those in the dimly lit room solved significantly more problems correctly than those in the brightly lit room. They also felt freer and less inhibited than their intensely illuminated counterparts.

Interesting business. I wonder what would happen if we dimmed our classroom lights during testing, problem-solving exercises and group work. Could it make our students more creative?

To read more about Steidle and Werth’s study, you can find a summary here.

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Tags: mindfulness in the classroom, writing strategies, Writing, writing skills, multisensory learning, mindfulness exercises

A Video to Help Students Put High-Stakes Testing Into Perspective

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 17, 2013 9:17:00 AM

Test anxiety needs no formal introduction. Most of us have experienced it—and if you haven’t, you’ve at least seen the crippling affect it can have on students’ self-esteem and performance.

We live in an era of high-stakes testing and while we do believe that we have a responsibility to equip students with strategies to help them succeed on these tests, we also believe it is equally important to put these exams into perspective.

This Test Does Not Define You is one video we always show students in the weeks preceding big exams. Not only does it do a nice job of dispelling a few myths about testing, it also sends them an important message: They are not defined by test results! The video also highlights some simple research-based activities that reduce test-anxiety.   

 

 

 

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Tags: high stakes testing, Classroom Community, mindfulness exercises, affirmations for teachers, motivation

First Day of School Jitters and 4 Ways to Conquer Them

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 23, 2013 3:53:00 PM

first day of schoolIt’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to a close. Some of you have already started a new school year, but we anticipate that most of you will begin this Monday. If you’ve got the first-day jitters, we promise that you’re not alone. Students have them and so do your colleagues—even the battle-scarred veterans who have been in the classroom for years. There’s only one first day of school and we want you to walk into your classroom with confidence.

First Day of School Jitters and 4 Ways to Conquer Them

No last minute preparations
We have a habit of scolding students who procrastinate. Truth be told, we’re some of the finest (and most covert) procrastinators in the nation—and our peace of mind has paid for it. Putting things off, even the small stuff just isn’t worth it.

Before you go to bed on Sunday evening, everything—I mean everything!—should be ready for the first day of class. No last-minute photo copies before first hour. No last-minute tweaks to the syllabus and seating charts. Set the timer on your coffee maker, make your lunch, and iron your outfit the night before. When you wake up, the only thing you should concern yourself with is getting both legs inside your pants.

Do you really want to improvise your introductory speech?
First impressions are important, so is the way teachers introduce themselves. Some teachers are brilliant orators and can deliver on the fly, but we always feel better when we know exactly what we want to say. Write down your opening remarks; even practice them if you think it would ease your mind.

If you’re using technology, make sure it works
Nothing stresses us out like having to fix a piece of cranky technology in front of a group. You know what we’re talking about: the video plays, but there’s no sound; the sound plays, but there’s no video. In that moment, it feels as if a spotlight parted the heavens just to illuminate our embarrassment and frustration.

If you are using technology on the first day of class, get there at least an hour early to make sure it works. If you’re using YouTube videos, make sure they’re still there. If you have a slow network, get these videos loaded up so that they play instantly.

Take a moment…then begin
Most of us have a set routine when we get to school. Routine is good, but do these activities have a clear beginning and end? In other words, do you end up typing three or four concluding sentences or reading one final paragraph while your students trickle in?


It’s tempting to squeeze the marrow out of every moment before “it” really begins, but there’s a costly tradeoff. Sure, you may have gotten through one more email, but did you notice the energy, demeanor, attitude, vibe of your students as they trickled in? Did you greet each student and say hello?


15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

“And doggone it, people like me”: 10 Affirmations for teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 27, 2013 12:05:00 PM

affirmations for teachersRemember the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smally?” In it Smalley plays a new-agey, self-help guru who faces an oval mirror and recites positive affirmations like, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” It’s true: affirmations, new age mysticism, and self-help culture are easy to lampoon—and although we’ll be the first to laugh at a Stuart Smally sketch, we do happen to believe in the power of affirmations, both positive and negative.

“And Doggone it, people like me”: 10 Affirmations for teachers

Imagine a teacher who wakes up in the morning and says, “There’s never enough time in the day. I work more hours than I have to really make a difference. I cannot possibly be expected to meet all of the curriculum goals without team planning time. I’m so tired of the technology not working when I need it!”

Now imagine a teacher who wakes and says, “I will strive to reduce my students’ anxiety before their test today. I will speak positively with others and listen with compassion.”

Who has a better chance of connecting with students? Who has a better chance of inspiring other teachers? We think it’s the latter.

Our observations and internal mutterings often give shape to our experiences. When we are told something about ourselves—whether by someone else or by that critical voice inside our heads—it is an affirmation that can easily become the lens through which we see our lives.

Below you will find 10 affirmations for teachers that we borrowed from Rob D’Alessio’s book, Bringing Our Souls to the Classroom. If you’re feeling burned out, overwhelmed, exhausted, try giving some of these a try. What’s the worst that could happen?

  • I support “readiness to learn”
  • I promote academic performance
  • I promote strengthening of attention and concentration in my classroom
  • I reduce anxiety before testing and culminating tasks in my classroom
  • My students are calm
  • I find ways to improve classroom participation
  • When I wake up, I wake up mindfully so my day is sure to meet or exceed expectations
  • I aspire to express more patience today
  • If I am calm, my students will instinctively move toward their own sense of calm
  • If I treat my students with respect and integrity, they are likely to return the courtesy

Teaching is a rewarding profession, but let’s face it, it’s also a huge responsibility. In addition to sharing these 10 affirmations for teachers, we’d also like to share our recent guide on becoming a more mindful teacher: Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen: Mindfulness in the Classroom.

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Tags: stress management, mindfulness exercises, affirmations for teachers

5 first day of school activities you can swear by

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 20, 2013 2:48:00 PM

There’s still plenty of time before the new school year begins, but we know that many of you have already started preparing! As you start to prep your minds, classrooms and curriculum for the fall, we thought we’d share 5 first day of school activities to get you started off on the right foot.

5 first day of school activities you can swear by

first day of school activitiesWrite a letter of introduction and send it before school begins
This is something you should do before the first day of school, but we're throwing it on the list anyway.

Imagine opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s prospective teacher. In the letter—addressed to both you and your child—the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students.

first day of school activities 2Make a big deal out of greeting students on the first day—and every day thereafter
Call us vain, but whenever we fly, we always appreciate the fact that the pilot and flight attendants stand in a row at the entrance, smile and say hello in a tone that suggests we are all long-lost friends. When we exit, we also appreciate the fact that they thank us for flying with them and wait to exit until the passengers have made their exit first. Sure, it’s their job to do this, but we appreciate the gesture: it shows class and makes us feel like we’re in good hands and appreciated.

Think of yourselves as pilots. It’s your job to help students reach their destination and keep them safe through the turbulence. But it’s also your job to make them feel appreciated. Greet your students every day—show them that you’re ready to and eager to explore a day of learning with them. Help them to feel that they are in a safe, fun environment.

For example, say “hello, how are you?” to every student. If someone was absent the day before, say, “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad to have you back. We missed having you yesterday. I like that tie, I like that new haircut…” It won’t take long for you to notice how this simple gesture impacts your relationship with students.

first day of school activities 3Ask your students to write a letter of introduction
One of our favorite first assignments is to have students submit a letter of introduction. We don’t evaluate the letter for spelling or punctuation and we make that clear when we assign it. If you teach a specific course, English for example, you might want your students to tell you about their experience with writing. Do they like it, loathe it? Why? Who was their favorite writing teacher and why? Where would they like to improve this year? How can you (the teacher) help them accomplish their goals?

Not only is this a useful way for students to assess their own goals for the year, it’s also an easy way to earn their first A+ of the year.

first day of school activities 4Dare to ask your students what they expect of you
On the first day of class, we spend a lot of time telling students what we expect of them and very little asking them what they expect of us. What if that changed this year?

Instead of creating a set of rules on your own, why not make it a collaborative activity between you and your students? We’ve done this using a poster board which we divide down the middle with a line. The left column is where we list our expectations of the students; the right is where the students list their expectations of us. Before writing anything down, make sure that there is dialogue and consensus between students. Of course, you have the right to intervene or refocus students when their expectations won’t do.

first day of school activities 5Join in on the fun
When it's your turn for recess duty, consider participating in a game rather than standing on the sidelines. If you're teaching at the secondary level, try running to grab a ball that has been thrown out of bounds on the lunchtime basketball courts, or visit a colleague's P.E. class during your prep. Playing with students is a great way to honor them and nurture relationships with them.

The playground is also a perfect location to have a conversation with students you’re worried about. Don’t take recess away from students who have misbehaved; use the change of scenery to your advantage. It’s much easier to talk to a student about what was going on inside the classroom when you are outside of it.  

If you’re looking for a few more first day of school activities, check out one of our recent blogs, Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers.



 

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Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 18, 2013 2:37:00 PM

icebreakers for teachersThe first day of school is still a ways off, but many teachers—especially those of us who just received our fall assignments—are already beginning to think about it. The day usually begins the same way: Our new students trickle in and find a desk where they can carefully guard their tongues for the next week. We feel for our students not only because we’ve been there before, but also because we always have some nervous energy ourselves. To ease the first-day jitters, we started using icebreakers. Below you will find five of our favorites.

Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers

Strings Attached
The only thing you’ll need for this activity is a big ball of string. Here’s how it works: The teacher stands at the door with two handfuls of string ends. As you welcome your new students give each student an end. Alternate hands as you pass them out: The first student gets a string-end from your right hand; the second from your left; the third from your right and so on.

Once everyone has arrived and has a string-end, they must start to follow the course of the string they hold (you got to class early and created a trail for each piece of string). Some pieces wrap around chairs, run through the coat closet, under and over desks and around your podium, or become tangled with other pieces of string. Your students will have to follow this trail—wherever it may lead them.

Eventually your students will be startled to discover that they are face-to-face with another student who is holding the other end of the same piece of string! Once each student has found his or her partner, it’s time for them to make their introductions. 

Put on a new jacket
The covers of our most-popular books often become torn and dirty. Direct your students to the classroom library and have them select books with damaged jackets or book covers. If you don’t have enough damaged books, allow them to choose a book with their favorite cover they’d like to protect.

Offer a variety of craft materials (paint, pens, random ephemera and fabric) so that students can create their own covers and book jackets. If you’d like instruction books or kits for slipcases, stop by Hollanders.

This idea comes courtesy of Bonnie Kunzel’s and Constance Hardesty’s book, The Teen-Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders.

Start a time capsule
Type up a handout that includes questions like:

  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • What is your favorite song?
  • What are you thinking right now?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your least favorite thing to eat?
  • How tall are you?

Feel free to get as crazy and creative as you like with these questions. Once your students are finished, collect the handouts and put them in a secure place.

When I was in third grade, my teacher received permission from the principal to dig a hole and bury our class time capsule (which also included an item belonging to each student) in the playground! At the end of the year, we dug up our time capsule and discussed how much our interest, tastes and height had changed over the course of a year. 

Know your orange
We got this idea from Christopher Willard’s book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed.

  • At the front of the classroom or in the center of a circle, place a bowl of clementine oranges on a desk. Ask your students if they can tell the oranges apart.
  • Now pick up the bowl and walk by each student and allow the student to select a clementine.
  • Once everyone has an orange, write these questions on the board: Look closely at your orange; how many colors does it have? What shape is it? Where did it come from? How many hands have touched this orange before you selected it? What does it feel like when you squeeze it? What does it smell like? Are there any distinct aromas? How does it look when you hold it at arm’s length? How about when it is a couple of inches from your eye?
  • Have your students write down their answers—tell them not to worry about spelling/punctuation/complete sentences.
  • Now pick up the empty bowl, walk around the room and have each student drop his or her orange into the bowl.
  • Now put it back on the table and have your students come up one at a time to find their orange.
  • Have your students share how they found their orange.
  • Eat and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

If you’d like to take this activity a few steps further, you might have your students journal about mindful tasting. Try giving them the following prompts:

  1. List 5 of your favorite things to eat and use vivid, colorful language to describe how each tastes, looks and smells.
  2. Pretend that you had your friend over for dinner and she refused to eat your favorite dish. How might you persuade her to eat it?

Spill the Skittles, not the beans
Pass out five or ten Skittles (M&Ms work too) to each student and explain that for each piece of candy the student has, s/he must tell the class something about him/herself. Here’s the tricky part: each color corresponds to a category. An orange Skittle represents a scary memory; green ones represent a favorite outdoor place; blue ones represent their favorite place to swim and so on. This is an easy way to get students talking—and when was the last time kids turned down free sweets?

There are a number of variations on this activity. For a slightly different spin, check out Katie’s idea on her blog, live.craft.eat

 

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Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

Stressed? Check out our newest guide, Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 28, 2013 2:58:00 PM

mindfulnessIt’s a rewarding profession, but let’s face it, being an educator is a huge responsibility. That said, it’s easy to forget that we’re not the only ones who are trying to negotiate pressure in our daily lives—our students are, too. This is exactly why we put together our most recent guide, Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen: Mindfulness in the Classroom.

When teachers are fully present (that is, when they are mindful) in their classrooms, they can’t help but be more effective. The same goes for students. You know what it looks like when students are in the moment. You can visualize it right now. You also know what it looks like when students are tired, disengaged, and discouraged.

But have you stopped what you were doing to be fully mindful of these experiences?

To be mindful, all you and your students need to have is a willingness to take notice of where you are, what you are doing and how you are responding to it.

Inside our guide, you’ll find short exercises and engaging classroom activities that will help you and your students do just this!

We hope that you and your students enjoy it! Click here or on the icon below to download the guide.

 

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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, arts integration, mindfulness exercises

Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen: 2 Mindfulness Exercises for Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 11, 2012 9:21:00 AM

Teaching MindfulnessDid you ever stop to consider that living a hectic lifestyle—one in which we squeeze every last drop of marrow out of our day—has become something of an American cultural virtue. Think about it: When our friends and acquaintances say, “You’re amazing…I really don’t know how you do it. I would be so exhausted,” we smile as they applaud our industriousness—despite the fact that we secretly want to scream!

This sort of hanging-by-a-thread existence not only impacts our lives, but the lives of our students as well. The more stressed out we are, the more likely it is that our students will absorb that stress themselves. That’s why we’d like to talk a bit about mindfulness in the classroom. A few weeks ago, we offered a few mindfulness exercises for teachers—now it’s time to offer 2 simple mindfulness exercises for students.

Zen Teaching and Teaching Zen: 2 Mindfulness Exercises for Students

Despite the fact that mindfulness exercises have roots in Eastern religion, we’re not asking you or your students to get into the lotus position and say “OHM…” Nope, mindfulness asks very little of you. It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to adopt or give up a belief system and you don’t have to be a guru to do it. All you and your students need to have is a willingness to stop and take notice of where you are, what you are doing and how you are responding to it.

Mindfulness Exercise #1: Know Your Orange*

  • At the front of the classroom or in the center of a circle, place a bowl of clementine oranges on a desk. Ask your students if they can tell the oranges apart.
  • Now pick up the bowl and walk by each student and allow the student to select a clementine.
  • Once everyone has an orange, write these questions on the board: Look closely at your orange; how many colors does it have? What shape is it? Where did it come from? How many hands have touched this orange before you selected it? What does it feel like when you squeeze it? What does it smell like? Are there any distinct aromas? How does it look when you hold it at arm’s length? How about when it is a couple of inches from your eye?
  • Have your students write down their answers—tell them not to worry about spelling/punctuation/complete sentences.
  • Now pick up the empty bowl, walk around the room and have each student drop his or her orange into the bowl.
  • Now put it back on the table and have your students come up one at a time to find their orange.
  • Have your students share how they found their orange.
  • Eat and enjoy the fruits of your labor! J

Mindfulness Exercise #2: What the Nose Knows*

  • Gather objects with strong odors. The sky is the limit with this, but if you’re stuck, you might try cinnamon sticks, cloves, grass clippings, pine combs, an old book, a dryer sheet, etc. You’ll need one object for every student.
  • Distribute the items as the students sit quietly.
  • Ask your students to hold the object in their hand, breathe out, lift the object to their nose and breathe in deeply. Have them do this several times.
  • Write the following questions on the board as they do this: What person or place does this smell make you think of? What feelings emerge when you smell the object? What does the scent do to your nose? Your tongue? Your stomach? When was the last time you smelled this scent? How would you describe the scent using at least 5 adjectives?
  • Have your students take time to write down their answers.
  • Now have your students share their experience with the object. If you want to take the project a step further, you could also have them draw or paint their reflections.

These two mindfulness exercises are only the tip of the iceberg—and what’s great about them is that they help couple the act of mindfulness with expository and descriptive writing. Not only that, they also help them students engage in collaborative conversations, swap ideas and learn from a diverse group of people!

*For more on mindfulness, we recommend Christopher Willard’s book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed.

 

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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, arts integration, mindfulness exercises

Let music do the talking: Using music as a classroom management tool

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 22, 2012 8:00:00 AM

Music in the ClassroomThe holiday season is here, but many of our students have already been dining on Thanksgiving turkey, unwrapping holiday gifts and ringing in the New Year for the last week—at least mentally! We’re all getting a little stir crazy, but save your voice for making toasts and catching up with family. When your students get rowdy, don’t yell, let music do the talking for you! Here are a few simple steps you can take to use music as a classroom management tool.

Let music do the talking: Using music as a classroom management tool

What’s the system? How does it work?
The classroom is, generally speaking, a voice-dominated environment—which is why music is such a powerful tool for cutting through student chatter and sending out a resounding message.

The idea is to use specific songs (not your voice) to cue behaviors and classroom activities.

We gleaned the idea from Ian Byrd, a teacher who blogs about differentiated instruction for high-level learners. When he wants chattering students to return to their seats, for example, he doesn’t say anything; instead, he simply walks over to his computer, plays the Andy Griffith theme song and watches his students wrap up and relocate to their desks. 

What you need
All you’ll need is a computer (or an mp3 player), a pair of speakers and a music-streaming service like iTunes or Spotify.  

The upside to using iTunes is that you don’t need an Internet connection to play songs and create a playlist. You will, however, have to pay for music.

If you go with Spotify, you can create your own playlist and stream any song you want for free, but you’ll need an Internet connection to do so—and you’ll have to tolerate the occasional commercial interruption.  

What makes music a fun classroom management tool is that your students will eventually start to sing (or whistle) along—and you probably will too!

If you purchase a cheap USB microphone and download Audacity or Garageband, you can even record your own theme songs like Byrd has done. Or better yet, why not have your students record their own theme songs?

Things to keep in mind when using this system:

  • Be consistent (so that you don’t confuse your students—or yourself—rename songs with the behavior you want each song to correspond to
  • Don’t overplay music. You don’t want the novelty of it to wear off
  • Use music as a timer. For example, if students take too long to line up for something, play a short, 30-second theme song and make lining up a competition to see if they can do so before the song finishes playing
  • Let them sing along, dance and wiggle along to the music!

    *Photo courtesy of Charles Kremenak.

    ten common technology challenges for teachers

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, arts integration, mindfulness exercises

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