Tag Archives: relevancy

Mike Cahir on Why Shakespeare Matters & How Parents Can Help Their Child Learn & Enjoy Shakespeare: Student Success Podcast no. 26

Oh, no, Shakespeare? English teacher Mike Cahir explains why learning Shakespeare matters and how parents can encourage their child to engage in the enormous benefits of learning from the Bard.

Featuring Mike Cahir, high school English teacher and Department Chair.

This podcast began when I asked Mike for his advice to one of our A+ Club students on why he should care about “Othello.” As usual, Mike goes well beyond the obvious and delivers a powerful lesson for students, parents, and teachers on the power and benefits of learning Shakespeare.

Mike reviews the skill sets required for comprehending Shakespeare and how to develop them, including his use in the classroom of “active reading,” “front loading,” and “visualization.” Mike builds student engagement by teaching them how to break down difficult text into component parts, how to make sense of the text through imagery and other clues that Shakespeare uses extensively and how he uses Yoda to teach kids old English.

Mike’s advice is great for students and teachers, but we especially offer it here for parents to empower them to engage their own child with these difficult but magnificent and rewarding texts – and to get a better grade in English class!

Student Success Podcast No. 26, published Jun 6, 2016 (recorded on Feb 2. 2016).

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Procrastination, values, and connecting long term goals to short term choices

student goal setting, values and procrastinationParents and teachers think that if only students would connect their short term decisions to long term goals, such as college and jobs, they would quit procrastinating and do their homework.

That’s why we’re always telling them about how important their future is.

Experience tells us that it’s not a reasonable connection. Kids won’t suddenly start doing their homework because they decided one day to be an astronaut or a sports agent. They do their homework because they think the homework is important unto itself.  Or not.

Every Child Wants Success

Students of all levels have high-standards and long term goals for themselves. But just wanting to go to a good college doesn’t get the homework done.

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“I don’t test well” — or do you just not prepare enough?

Testing issues?

You understand it in class, but not when you have to do it on the test?

You do all your homework, but then the teacher pops a question you never saw before?

Actually, you test precisely as well as you learn.

Nice try, though.

We hear this from parents as much as from students:

“My daughter does all her homework but she just doesn’t test well.”

And then

“I think she has test anxiety.”

It’s almost comforting to know that your child doesn’t test well. One would want to sympathize with that, because it would seem to explain things. But it’s just not true.

Here are the components of “testing well”:

  1. Identify teacher expectations

  2. Internalize them through repetitive practice.

“Testing” is demonstration of learning in what we call a “formal assessment.” Certainly there are additional pressures and conditions to render a formal assessment more difficult than homework or classwork. There’s the time limit, there’s the formality of the situation, and the discomfort a teacher getting serious all of a sudden. But that doesn’t change the fact that none of those additional challenges do anything but emphasize preparedness — or lack thereof.

Guided v. Independent Practice

For students who simply do not engage the workflow that teachers expect, they will not “test well” unless they are exceptionally bright and can learn on the fly without studying. Their grades will still suffer, because middle and high school grades are usually no more than 30 or 40 percent from formal assessments.

So acing every test without doing any homework starts you off on a B or C, and maintaining even those grades requires 100% on tests and quizzes. Good luck with that.

For students who follow in the classroom, who understand teacher expectations, and who do the homework and studying that’s required of them — and still do not “test well,” it’s not a “testing” issue. It’s the learning.

A couple of things may be going on:

1. Compliance without learning:

What we call “overly compliant” students are more concerned with fulfilling the form of teacher (or parent) expectations without actually engaging its substance. When this happens, homework and studying happen without real learning. It shows up as high  homework (process) and low test (learning) grades.

2. Lack of lesson internalization:

Whether or not the student engages the expected workflow, if test scores are low, then the student is simply not studying enough. Experts will tell you how it takes 30 distinct acts of learning/practicing something to fully internalize, i.e., to full know it.

With school work, those 30 or whatever acts of learning start with the teacher’s first lesson, then continue through the “guided practice,” in which the teacher shows and leads the students in the lesson (setting expectations, engaging students, building relevancy and breaking it down for understanding — you know, all those things a good teacher does…) and on to enough “independent” practice through which the student has applied the teacher’s learning her or himself.

A quick way to measure “internalization” is to try to teach it to someone else. If you can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t already know it, then you don’t really know it. This is how a parent can engage a child in studying topics that the parent doesn’t know about: “explain it to me.” If the student can’t, then the student needs more learning, be it guided or independent practice or both.

But here’s the crutch: is it important enough to the student to apply him or herself to it fully?

Relevancy

So let’s add an additional component to “testing well”:

3. Making it important enough to study and practice enough (relevancy and commitment)

Overly compliant students do not engage lessons meaningfully, as do other sorts of underperformers who may procrastinate, lack  executive function and other secretarial skills and do not process and practice enough independently.

Just as we would ask the internally-motivated student who learns only topics of interest, the overly compliant, externally-motivated student must adopt that curiosity and drive to learn of the intrinsic learner in order to get past “I don’t test well.”

Both sets must apply themselves with adequate  preparation, practice, and purpose in order to raise those test grades, even in an unenjoyable class.

Heh, it’s only a grade — which actually matters.

So quit making excuses about “testing issues” and get to work really learning it so that when you do have to spit it back out on a test amidst formal, “sit-down and shut-up,” nerve-wracking settings, it’s actually easy — because you already and truly know it.

– Michael

The Late Work Game: teachers, do you want missing work, late work — or no work at all?

Welcome back to the late work game!

First semester is up and teachers and students across the country are recovering from that last minute freak out: get that missing work in!

Stressed kids near collapse trying to dig something out, anything to get the grades up. Desperate teachers giving up all pretense of syllabus rules and pushing, pulling, and excusing the kids across the finish line. Vice Principals peering over their shoulders, demanding mounds of paper work to justify failing this and that kid. Now into the new semester and it’s starting all over again. Continue reading

Teaching or learning pt 2: textooks are for teaching or for learning?

The Textbooks dilemma: are they for teaching or learning?

A student told me today that he prefers a certain teacher over the others because that teacher doesn’t use a textbook.

Wow, that’s cool, I say.

“So why do your other teachers use textbooks?”
“I have no idea.”
“And what do you learn from them?”
“I have no idea.” Continue reading

Teaching or learning: teachers, which would you prefer? If you want it, sell it!

I hate my teacher!

Teachers, I can’t tell you how much I hear from kids that they’re ready to learn, but their teacher keeps getting in the way.

Yep, we hear it all the time, “I hate my teacher!” But if we listen behind the angry words, what kids are really saying is that they’d rather like than hate their teachers. Continue reading