MAT Blog

Nothing is better than a good teacher!

Posted by Dreu Adams on Aug 18, 2011 5:10:00 AM

Extension of the Classroom StrategiesOn March 9, 2011, Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimated that 82 percent of America’s schools would not meet annual yearly progress (AYP). Eighty-two percent is an incredible number, and fortunately, it is a number which is not supported by data. However, schools nationwide– desperate to show good results on statewide tests– sometimes budget instructional monies on any sort of technology that has data to show how it could improve student performance. If we could step back and look at what is really needed, it might be something as simple as having students spend more time with a teacher or providing the right resources to better prepare our teachers.

Technology provides a path for learning, but is only one of several available to a well-prepared teacher. Most teachers know there is nothing more important than small group instruction when it comes to meeting the needs of more students. Computers can help teachers create time for small group instruction while allowing students to practice skills, but the most important thing in any classroom is still the teacher. Great teachers are everywhere, and they don’t always have access to the Internet.

I watched a first grade teacher in an urban school district use almost no technology in her classroom, but her teaching skills were incredible. She motivated her students, had them involved in challenging activities, taught them how to set and meet learning goals for themselves, and work in co-operative groups with responsibilities that were understood and carried out by each group member. This is not easy with older children so this classroom always impressed me. The teacher actually moved her two computers OUT of her classroom so students would have more space to set up science experiments and a reading area.

When this teacher wanted more time in her day to be able to focus on individualized and differentiated reading instruction, she looked at her own habits to see what could be changed. She implemented new morning procedures that allowed her to gain 15 minutes more teaching time each day. That might not sound like much, but it equaled nine extra days of learning for her students!

She didn’t stop there. She challenged her students in every subject and those students knew she believed they could rise to any challenge. Before she ended any lesson she presented one more problem for them to think about and you could see the determination on their faces as each one of them tried to work it out. Somebody always came up with the answer and they begged for more.

At the end of the school year, just over 75 percent of her first grade students had reading and math skills at the third grade level or higher. Each year, parents go to the principal and request this teacher who uses almost no technology in her classroom. She does use an online gradebook, e mail and a calculator, but don’t let her students know about the calculator!

-Ohioan Hester Bixler has been an online Mentor for the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) program for 12 years.

If you would like to make the most of your time in the classroom, download our free guide on Extensions of the Classroom. It features some unexpected and under-utilized low-tech ideas that teachers can use to get the most out of their students, every day!

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Tags: Classroom Strategies, Responsive Teaching, Low-tech Classroom Strategies

Should Recess Become the Fourth “R” in School?

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 28, 2011 9:39:00 AM

marygrove college recess 150x225Teaching to standards, testing and ongoing assessments are constants in every busy classroom. The tendency for teachers to skip recess on occasion is now greater than ever, as we approach the back end of the No Child Left Behind Act—where every student in every school in America should be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Teachers use recess time to help students who are not at grade level; at some schools there is no recess at all and the entire school day is just one long test preparation period.

Struggling most to make the grade are our urban schools and low income districts. Through no fault of their own, these areas are more likely to have inadequate playgrounds, making recess less critical, due to safety or space limitations. Will denying children daily fresh air and exercise also deny them the chance to form healthy habits for life? By the same concern, are students able to refresh their brains before moving on to new tasks-- something studies have shown to be important for young minds?

First Lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity a national priority with her Let’s Move initiative. As an extended community, perhaps together we could find ways to help her achieve her goals– with children in all schools– in every city and town.

Teachers who champion recess can be examples for those who do not. The article "Why kids need recess and exercise", outlines some of the important perceptions out there that all teachers need to be aware of, as class time slips through our hands—like sand in the sand box.

We’d like you to share with us some of the creative ways urban schools can incorporate recess into the school day, without having to leave the safety of the building. Whether it’s fifteen minutes of light exercise in the classroom, or a brisk walk around the hallways, we are interested to hear your feedback.

How do you get kids moving in your classroom, for optimal learning success?

Tags: Recess, Classroom Community, Responsive Teaching

Students with ants in the pants?

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 14, 2011 5:00:00 AM

How to deal with fidgety students in the classroom.

MAT Brain BreaksThird Grade Special Education Teacher Melissa Fettrow (Marygrove MAT ’11) finds the following blog link very helpful in dealing with fidgety students:

“In my busy resource room, I’ve observed that it’s good to have students engage in a physical activity right before a standardized test, to get the blood flowing and energy up,” Fettrow says. “We also have a lot of sensory objects available that I pass out to students before tests and assessments. They work well to soothe students after tough tests, too.”

These kinesthetic tips work great for every student, of every cognition and age…after all, who hasn’t had a fidgety moment or two in the classroom?

Energizing Brain Breaks recommends that teachers give their students the opportunity to do something with their hands even during test-taking, so you can bet that classroom manipulatives are a big help to teachers before, during and after testing:

Fidgety students love to keep themselves moving. We can relieve this tension for them by giving them something to work with in their hands while they take the test at their seat. Here are some examples.
a. Pipe cleaners (Get them at the Dollar store)
b. Koosh® or NERF balls
c. Rubber hand strengtheners
d. Kneadable erasers
e. Silly Putty
f. Paper clips
g. Rubber bands

Find more tips and tools at

Tags: Special Education, Alumni, Responsive Teaching

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