EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM – 2

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

This is my second and final post on EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM and please access the first one here.

Groups work best when they have been together for quite some time. This means students get to know each other and besides the camaraderie created, they become committed and work for each other. Of course there are exceptions but knowing the elements for effective group work can help teachers to build and maintain high-performance teams throughout the duration of the task at hand.

group hand fist bump

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

David Ingram identifies FIVE key conditions for teamwork to prosper. Whilst his ideas work well among colleagues at work, I felt the conditions he set up can easily be applied to the classroom IF ONLY, we, as teachers, teach these to our students: These are:

  1. Commitment and Trust . . . Each member must devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to advancing the group’s mission and must be able to trust that all other team members are doing the same.
  2. Communication . . . Effective teams must have open lines of communication. Communication must be honest and flow between all team members equally.
  3. Diversity of Capabilities . . . Take time to ensure that each team member possesses skills and strengths that complement the skills, strengths and weaknesses of other team members.
  4. Adaptability . . . The group must be flexible and adaptable to changing conditions. Team strategies, goals, tasks, workflows and even members can change over the life of the team. Team members should be able to rally together and meet new challenges head-on,
  5. Creative Freedom . . . All team members should feel free to think creatively, that is, to try new things and fail without the fear of consequences.

Some More Types Of Groups

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” – George Shinn

BUZZ GROUPS – These groups involve students engaging in short, informal discussions, often in response to a particular sentence starter or question. At a transitional moment in the class, have students turn to 1-3 neighbours to discuss any difficulties in understanding, answer a prepared question, define or give examples of key concepts, or speculate on what will happen next in the class. The best discussions are those in which students make judgments regarding the relative merits, relevance, or usefulness of an aspect of the lesson.

MICRO LAB – This is a structured small group approach to an issue, question, or problem. This involves only speaking and listening-it is not a time for discussion or dialogue. It means the teacher forms groups of three or four students in small circles. Within each circle, each student has a minute to speak. Designate a volunteer in each group to speak first. Announce when time is up.

MOVING OPINION POLL – The poll is a way to activate students, to gain insight into the possibility that people can disagree without arguing or fighting, that they can listen respectfully to views different from their own, perhaps even change their minds.

Post two large signs on opposite sides of the room: “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree.” Tell students they are to participate in a moving opinion poll. Each time students hear a statement they are to move to the place along the imaginary line that most closely reflects their opinion. For strong disagreement, move all the way to one side of the room. For strong agreement, move to the opposite side.

FISH BOWL –  This is an especially good for involving the whole class in one small group discussion when students have very different views on a controversial issue. The teacher begins with a conversation asking five to seven students to make a circle with their chairs in the middle of the room. Try to ensure that the group reflects diverse points of view. Ask everyone else to make a circle of chairs around the fish bowl to create a larger circle around the smaller circle. Only people in the fish bowl can speak.

After 15 minutes or so, invite students from the larger circle to participate in the fish bowl conversation by tapping a fish bowl student on the shoulder and moving into that student’s seat. Continue with additional questions.

ROTATING TRIOS – This strategy involves students discussing issues with many of their fellow classmates in turn. Beforehand, prepare discussion questions. In class, students form trios, with the groups arranged in a large circle or square formation. Give the students a question and suggest that each person takes a turn answering. After a suitable time period, ask the trios to assign a 0, 1, or 2 to each of its members. Then direct the #1s to rotate one trio clockwise, the #2s to rotate two trios clockwise, and the #0s to remain in the same place; the result will be completely new trios. Now introduce a new, slightly more difficult question. Rotate trios and introduce new questions as many times as you would like.

THE BELIEVING GAME – This activity asks students to enter as fully as possible into a point of view that may be unfamiliar or even disagreeable, to suspend judgment and experience it, to look for virtues and strengths that might otherwise be missed.

“Everyone agrees in theory that we can’t judge a new idea or point of view unless we enter into it and try it out, but the practice itself is rare,” writes Peter Elbow.

In their discussions, students are to make only statements that support the viewpoint presented. They are not role-playing, but working to find anything with which they can genuinely agree.

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

PLEASE try some of the suggestions above and see your class achieve more.

I have used most of the group work activities above and my top FOUR best of all time are:

  1. Fish Bowl
  2. Buzz Groups
  3. Moving Opinion Poll
  4. Rotating Trios

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED AND EXCEL

 

 

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EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM – 1

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

We have all been a part of that group in an English lesson before. Do you recall that group project where one person takes the lead, leading some members to conclude their ideas are unwelcome, while a select few ride the others’ coattails?

That must be a thing of the past IF you can divide your class into some of the suggestions offered here.  This is the power of inclusivity – the power of group work where WE all participate and enjoy the benefits.

GROUP WORK @ HIGH SCHOOL, when properly structured and monitored, can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills
  • Tackle more complex problems than they could on their own
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities
  • Share diverse perspectives
  • Pool knowledge and skills
  • Hold one another (and be held) accountable

It is essential to note that while the potential learning benefits of group work are significant, simply assigning group work is no guarantee that these goals will be achieved so . . .

From the start . . .

Discuss major goals of group work with students early and keep on reminding them the key tenets of being involved in a discussion. The teacher and class need to set goals for discussions, brainstorm criteria for what makes a discussion interesting and useful.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, cloud, sky, baby, closeup and outdoorCome up with questions that will help the group assess the quality and process of small and large group discussions.

AMONG THE QUESTIONS that might be useful for group assessments include:

  1. Did each group member have an adequate opportunity to speak?
  2. Did each person feel that his or her comments were heard and respected, even if challenged?
  3. Did students hear anything that complicated their thinking or that offered new insights or information?
  4. What roles did individuals in the group play: leader, clarifier, idea person, organizer, etc.?
  5. What behaviors help or hinder group work activities?
  6. How useful was the discussion? If useful, why? If not, what problems can you identify?
  7. What specific ideas do you have to improve group discussions next time?

Types Of Groups

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But WE can all do small things, with great love, and together WE can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa

PAIR-SHARE DIALOGUES – Students are paired facing each other. The teacher defines an issue, question, or problem and invites each student, in turn, to speak in response for one or two minutes. As a listener, the student is to focus complete attention on the partner and what he/she is saying. After the pair-share, the teacher asks each student to paraphrase the partner’s views before expressing their reactions in a short general discussion.

LEARNING TEAMS – For this type of group, students are divided into groups at the beginning of the term. When you want to incorporate small group discussion or teamwork into your class, you direct the students to get into these term-long learning groups. Groups of four work well, because each foursome can be subdivided into pairs, depending on the activity.

CONVERSATION CIRCLES – These allow for students to have brief conversations with several other students. The teacher divides students into two groups of equal size. Ask one group to form a circle and face outward, the other group to form an outer circle by pairing with a partner from the inside circle. Pairs should face each other, standing a few feet apart. The teacher presents an issue, question, or problem and invites the pairs to give each other their response. Each student in the pair has one or two minutes to speak. Then the teacher asks the outside partner to move one, two or three places to the right. Each student will now have a new partner with whom to share ideas on the same issue, question or problem or, perhaps, a somewhat different one.

GROUP GO-AROUND – This process can multiply student conversations and promote participation. The teacher divides students into groups of four to six or seven sitting in a circle, perhaps to discuss the same issue, perhaps one of several questions under class consideration. One student begins the go-around without being interrupted, followed by each of the other students who wish to speak in turn. The go-around then is repeated with another question or problem.

THINK-PAIR-SHARE – This strategy has three steps. First, students think individually about a particular question or scenario. Then they pair up to discuss and compare their ideas. Finally, they are given the chance to share their ideas in a large class discussion.

SNOWBALL GROUPS/PYRAMIDS – This method involves progressive doubling: students first work alone, then in pairs, then in fours, and so on. In most cases, after working in fours, students come together for a plenary session in which their conclusions or solutions are pooled together. Provide a sequence of increasingly complex tasks so that students do not become bored with repeated discussion at multiple stages.

“It is literally true that YOU can succeed best and quickest by helping OTHERS to succeed.” – Napolean Hill

Groups work best when they have been together for quite some time. This means students get to know each other and besides the camaraderie created, they become committed and work for each other. Of course, there are exceptions but knowing the elements for effective group work can help teachers to build and maintain high-performance teams throughout the duration of the task at hand.

PLEASE try some of the suggestions above and see your class achieve more.

I also have a second post coming on the topic and would encourage you to enrich yourself through reading it. Thanks.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED AND EXCEL

VOCABULARY WORKSHOP – THE KEY WORDS TO USE IN WRITING OR SPEAKING COMPETENTLY 8

This is my EIGHTH post on this interesting topic. Posts 1-7 can be accessed here too:

Vocabulary Workshop – The Key Words To Use In Writing Or Speaking Competently 1-7

I also have three related posts which you can easily access here:

THE ACQUISITIONOF VOCABULARY is one of the most important tasks in language learning. If you have enough words, you can make sense of what you are reading or listening to and you can somehow express yourself.

In short, vocabulary acquisition is much more important than grammar. The grammar we have is acquired gradually as we become familiar with the language, with the words, but first of all we need words.

girl writing on a black keyboard

How Do We Learn Vocabulary?

Vocabulary knowledge is not something that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence.

Don’t try to remember words alone – It is better (and easier) to learn new vocabulary by giving words some context. One way to do this is to remember words in a sentence. This is a great option because you will not only know the word, but you will also know exactly how to use it in conversation.

Another option is to remember words by groups. If you just learned the word “humongous” (very large), you can memorize it by thinking of a group of words getting bigger and bigger—large, huge, humongous. This also gives you the chance to learn even more words at the same time.

For example: large, humongous, gargantuan. What do you think “gargantuan” means?

In each of the following groups, circle the item that means the same as the boldface word in the introductory phrase: The answers are at the end of the exercise.

  1. Classed with the neophytes: a. novices b. vertebrates   c. experts
  2. A testy waiter:   a. imperturbable b. irritable   c. inexperienced
  3. Indubitable honesty: a. indisputable b. doubtful   c. unquestionable
  4. A coherent plan of action: a. meaningful   b. secret   c. complicated
  5. Watched the calves cavort:   a. gambol   b. eat   c. sleep       d. race
  6. Mordant observations:   a. sympathetic   b. brilliant   c. insightful
  7. A bastion of propriety:   a. criterion b. sense  c. stronghold
  8. The patron’s largesse:  a. generosity     b. stinginess   c. reputation
  9. Costly raiment:   a. repairs   b. mistakes   c. attire
  10. Inordinate demands: a. modest   b. excessive c. curious
  11. Picayune criticisms:   a. scholarly     b. perceptive   c. petty
  12. A convivial group:   a. genial   b. unsociable   c. friendly
  13. Garish costumes:  a. showy   b. traditional   c. rented
  14. Allay their anxiety: a. intensify     b. justify     c. alleviate
  15. Litany of complaints: a. petition  b. revision c. angry

ANSWERS: 1A  2B  3C  4A  5A  6C  7C  8A  9C  10B 11C 12C  13A  14C  15A

How did you fair? Once again Dear Reader, with practice you will see your vocabulary improving so much: both written and spoken.

blur book close up data

Lastly, READ SPECIAL VOCABULARY BOOKS

Reading is a good way to learn new words, but what you read can also make a huge difference in how much you learn.

Choose books that are a little bit challenging for you, and you will learn a lot more than if you read at your level. If you read a book at your level, you may already know all the words. If you read a challenging book, you will need to learn many new words.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

INCREDIBLE WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR MOOD

CONSIDER these questions first . . .

  • Do you know that your mood and behavior affect performance?
  • How do you work on attaining the consistent, emotionally intelligent leadership behaviors that breed success in yourself and others?
  • How often do you look for good in others?

Many people would agree with me that the way their boss behaves affects the way they do their job.

Whether irritable or unpredictable, upbeat or encouraging, the range of moods to which leaders expose their followers, is generally viewed as having the potential to encourage or inhibit performance.

In a well written research on moods by Goleman et al entitled ‘Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance’ in the Harvard Business Review of December 2001, the writers demonstrate that this generally accepted truth has empirical support too. In the research spanning over a two-year study, it suggests that a leader’s mood can actually impact directly on organisational performance; to the extent that an organization’s success may actually depend upon its leader having the right kind of moods.

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpegResearch On Mood Management

The notion that a leader’s mood affects their staff and, consequently, their organization’s performance, is not new. A number of studies establish a causal link between a leader’s mood and a follower’s performance. Alice Isen of Cornell University, for instance, established that a positive working atmosphere contributes to enhanced mental efficiency, higher information intake and comprehension, and more flexible thinking.

Mood management is defined by our ability to keep powerful emotions in check so that we can make rational decisions that are in our and others’ best interests. The better we are able to stay calm under pressure, the less likely we will overreact and make poor decisions in the workplace.

MOODS are typically described as having either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people usually talk about being in a good mood or a bad mood. People seem to experience a positive mood when they have a clean slate, have had a good night sleep, and feel no sense of stress in their life. Those experiencing negative moods may have important implications for mental and physical well-being. Thus, negative mood has no specific start and stop date. It can last for hours, days, weeks, or longer. Negative moods can also manipulate how individuals interpret and translate the world around them, and can also direct their behavior.

Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even longer-lasting.

The Impact Of A Leader’s Mood

Leaders’ moods are important because of their prominent position within the company or organization. The effect is most apparent in open-plan offices shared by the leader; but the bad mood can also spread throughout the organization by first infecting those with whom the leader deals directly, and then moving downwards as the various subordinates interact.

Goleman et tal’s research demonstrates that when leaders are in a happy mood they galvanize good performance and the rest of the office smiles with them. When a leader is in a happy mood:

  • They think more positively about their own goals.
  • They are more creative.
  • They make better decisions
  • They are instinctively more helpful to those around them.

On the negative side, when a leader is often in a negative mood:

  • They are rarely successful.
  • They have a negative influence on their followers, who seldom reach their potential.
  • They will often end up being blamed for poor results.

However, the research points out that in a negative situation, if the leader can recognise the effect they are having early enough, the impact may not be irreversible.

Understanding The Human Brain

A mood is an emotional state and lies with the human brain. The region of the brain which manages emotions, termed the limbic area, is commonly described as operating on an ‘open-loop’ system. Unlike the self-regulating nature of a ‘closed-loop’ system, the limbic area requires external stimulation to operate. Moods are created based on these external influences. The open-loop system explains why, for instance, a sustained period of severe stress affects isolated individuals far more than socially active ones, or why intensive care patients with a loved one constantly nearby are more likely to recover than those without.

It also accounts for the feelings of warm affection shared between couples. Open-loop also accounts for a measurable harmonisation in physiological characteristics, such as heart-rate, between two friends deep in conversation. Finally, in social environments, such as an office or meeting room, individuals rapidly attune to each other’s physiological and emotional states.

A study by Bartel and Saavedra showed astounding results  that monitored seventy work teams in various industries and discovered that, when working closely together, the teams soon began to share moods, both positive and negative.

Negative Moods

It is quite interesting to note that negative moods are not as significant in their effect as positive ones. Put differently, positive moods improve performance more than negative moods which cause performance to deteriorate. Yet, a good mood in itself does little; it has to be the right kind of good mood. At a time of crisis, for example, a smiling, upbeat mood would simply be insensitive. Successful resonance should enable leaders to blend their mood into situations as they present themselves.

Goleman et tal attributes the problem, through leaders who have little idea or fail to notice what resonance, if any, they have with their subordinates. The study authors call this,CEO disease’; namely, a complete lack of awareness by leaders of how they are regarded within the company or organization they lead. This arises not through a lack of concern about how people perceive them – most leaders are extremely keen to find this out. Rather, they mistakenly presume both that they are themselves capable of discerning people’s perception of them; and that negative impressions of them will be communicated directly to the leader.

The CEO Disease can also lie with subordinates who hesitate to tell their boss exactly what they think for fear of being penalised. Less evident is that asking people to comment on how a leader’s emotional disposition affects their work is seen as too unconventional and vague.

The implication is that primal leadership demands more than putting on a game face every day. It requires an executive to determine, through reflective analysis, how his/her emotional leadership drives the moods and actions of the organization, and then, with equal discipline, the need to adjust his/her behavior accordingly.

The solution instead is rather more complex. The Harvard team explain that a person’s emotional skills, while having a genetic component, are significantly influenced by one’s personal life experiences. These in turn build on each other, to the extent that a set pattern of behaviour is difficult to alter. As the authors point out:

‘And therein lies the rub: The more we act a certain way – be it happy, depressed or cranky – the more the behavior becomes ingrained in our brain circuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.’

group hand fist bump

Five Steps To Managing Your Moods Effectively

The solution proposed by the Harvard team is a five-stage process designed in effect to ‘rewire the brain towards more emotionally intelligent behaviours.’

They outline it as follows:

1. Who do I want to be?

This involves imagining an ideal version of yourself. The team asked leaders to imagine themselves eight years ahead as an effective leader, taking into account how they would feel, what they would do, and who would be there. This exercise encouraged them to envisage how their working and emotional lives might change if they had a different outlook.

2. Who am I now?

This step requires leaders to begin to see themselves as others do. A small element of ‘ego-defence’ is inevitable, and indeed is a useful way of remaining enthusiastic and positive when making difficult decisions. Yet as the team suggest, ‘self-delusion should come in very small doses.’ They suggest remaining continually receptive towards criticism, even going as far as actively inviting negative feedback.

Interestingly, the team also stress that it is important not to focus simply on the leader’s perceived weaknesses. Having an accurate picture of their main strengths provides the motivation and focus for them to concentrate on counteracting their weaknesses.

3. How do I get from here to there?

The Harvard research team suggest that the learning process might take the form of the leader requesting written, anonymous feedback from every team member about their mood and its affect on the team.

Other techniques might include a weekly diary in order to compare, week by week, the leader’s self-perception with that of those around him, or the appointment of one or two carefully chosen colleagues to act as both coach and devil’s advocate.

It must be understood that any change will be gradual and will only be successful if the leader’s increased state of awareness is fairly constant. Paying more attention to new methods of behaviour in itself acts as stimulation for the breaking of former habits and the experimentation with new ones.

4. How do I make change stick?

As already suggested, altering ingrained behaviour patterns requires continual rehearsal. But modifying one’s actions in practice is not the only way that these patterns can be altered. This can actually occur merely by visualising a different method of behaviour: ‘imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells actually involved in doing that activity…So to alleviate the fears associated with trying out riskier ways of leading, we should first visualize some likely scenarios.’ This can be done anywhere when the leader has some spare time, e.g. while travelling to work, or when waiting for colleagues to arrive at a meeting.

5. Who can help me?

The final stage involves forming what the Harvard team term ‘a community of supporters.’ They cite an executive learning programme carried out by Unilever where managers came together in regular learning groups, initially to discuss career and leadership ideas. This gradually evolved as trust built up between the executives to include frank discussion about each others’ technique and performance. The advantage of such an approach is that ‘people we trust let us try out unfamiliar parts of our leadership repertoire without risk.’

Thus, it is important that once you are aware of an emotion, you can trace its cause and change it. Left unchanged, an extended period of emotion becomes your “mood.” A very extended mood can also develop into a character trait. Some people remain trapped in a chronically negative mood which then affects their state and subsequently influences others.

Surely, the ability to manage your own state is fundamental to managing yourself and to influencing the state of another person. Given the high probability of disappointment, failed expectations and loss in the world, we are vulnerable to being pushed into a negative state unless we have learned to self-manage.

THE BAD NEWS is that a leader’s mood affects corporate results.

THE GOOD NEWS is that moods, while certainly ingrained in our individual psyches, are not fixed there permanently.

THUS, with recourse to the proper techniques, unproductive mood swings and harmful fluctuations of temperament can be reduced; to the good of a leader, staff members and organisation alike.

I am sure I didn’t ruffle up a few feathers.

Good luck in all your endeavours to improve your image.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL – 5

pexels-photo-416322.jpegSo far the journey on the  topic AWESOME WAYS TO RAISE YOUR GRADE IN ENGLISH @ HIGH SCHOOL has taken us through these topics, which can easily be accessed here . . .

This post has special focus on USING NUMBERS IN WRITING.

USING NUMBERS IN WRITING

Except for a few basic rules, spelling out numbers as opposed to using figures (also called numerals) is largely a matter of writers’ preference.

Again, CONSISTENCY is the key.

Spell out all numbers beginning a sentence, eg:

  • Twenty-three hundred sixty-one victims were hospitalized.
  • Nineteen fifty-six was quite a year.

Some make an exception for years, eg: 1956 was quite a year.

Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine, eg:

  • Forty-three people were injured in the train wreck.
  • Twenty-seven of them were hospitalized.

Hyphenate all written-out fractions, eg:

  • We recovered about two-thirds of the stolen cash.
  • One-half is slightly less than five-eighths.

However, do not hyphenate terms like a third or a half.

It is not necessary to use a decimal point or a dollar sign when writing out sums of less than a dollar, eg:

  • Not Advised: He had only $0.60.
  • Better: He had only sixty cents. OR He had only 60 cents.

Do not add the word “dollars” or “pounds” to figures preceded by a dollar/pound sign.

  • Incorrect: I have $1,250 dollars in my checking account.
  • Correct: I have $1,250 in my checking account.

For clarity, use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 PM and 12:00 AM.

AM and PM are also written A.M. and P.M. OR a.m. and p.m., OR am and pm.

Some put a space between the time and AM or PM, eg: 8 AM; 3:09 P.M.; 11:20 p.m.

Others write times using no space before AM or PM, eg: 8AM; 3:09PM.; 11:20pm.

For the top of the hour, some write 9:00 PM, whereas others drop the :00 and write 9 PM (or 9 p.m., 9pm, etc.).

Using numerals for the time of day has become widely accepted, eg:

  • The flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
  • Please arrive by 12:30pm sharp.

However, some writers prefer to spell out the time, particularly when using o’clock, eg:

  • She takes the four thirty-five train.
  • The baby wakes up at five o’clock in the morning.

pexels-photo.jpgMixed fractions are often expressed in figures unless they begin a sentence, eg:

  • We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
  • Five and one-half percent was the expected wage increase.

The simplest way to express large numbers is usually best, eg:

  • twenty-three hundred (simpler than two thousand three hundred)
  • Large round numbers are often spelled out, but be consistent within a sentence.

Consistent: You can earn from one million to five million dollars.

Inconsistent: You can earn from one million dollars to 5 million dollars.

Write decimals using figures. As a courtesy to readers, many writers put a zero in front of the decimal point, eg:

  • The plant grew 0.79 inches last year.
  • The plant grew only 0.07 inches this year.

When writing out a number of three or more digits, the word is not necessary. However, use the word to express any decimal points that may accompany these numbers, eg:

  • one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars
  • one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents
  • Simpler: eleven hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents

When writing out numbers above 999, do not use commas.

  • Incorrect: one thousand, one hundred fifty-four dollars, and sixty-one cents
  • Correct: one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents

The following examples are typical when using figures to express dates, eg:

  • the 30th of June, 1934
  • June 30, 1934 (no -th necessary)

When spelling out decades, do not capitalize them, eg:

  • During the eighties and nineties, the U.S. economy grew.

When expressing decades using figures, it is simpler to put an apostrophe before the incomplete numeral and no apostrophe between the number and the s, eg:

  • During the ’80s and ’90s, the U.S. economy grew.

Some writers place an apostrophe after the number, eg:

  • During the 80’s and 90’s, the U.S. economy grew.
  • Awkward: During the ’80’s and ’90’s, the U.S. economy grew.

You may also express decades in complete numerals. Again, it is cleaner to avoid an apostrophe between the year and the s, eg:

  • During the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. economy grew.

Dear Reader,

Some of the issues raised here are general knowledge. If that was the case, well, what a refresher course you have had. If this has been handy to you, I would really appreciate a comment from you. Thanks.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL! 

AMAZING CLASSROOM TACTICS FOR EFFECTIVE QUESTIONING

The Power of Questioning in the Classroom (Part 1)

Do you know that asking questions opens the door to understanding?

Questioning is the strategy that propels readers forward. When readers ask questions, they are less likely to abandon a text. When one question is answered, another one usually arises. The more students learn to question, the more sophisticated their questions become.

This is the power of questioning in the classroom.

Asking questions is natural and intuitive. Teachers ask questions from the start of the lesson until the end . . .

  • to develop learning and higher order thinking,
  • to promote imagination,
  • to speculate,
  • to create thinking and
  • to pitch a suitable challenge level.

ASKING QUESTIONS forms part of any lesson because it invites the student to think, and even within a ‘lecture’ style lesson, rhetorical questions are used to invite silent agreement or begin the organisation of ideas to present a response. Research suggests teachers ask over 400 questions a day.

How and why do we use Questions and Talk in the classroom?

Teachers use questioning as part of their teaching for many reasons, but often to:

  • maintain the flow of the learning within the lesson;
  • engage students with the learning;
  • assess what has been learned, and check that what has been learnt is understood and applied;
  • test student memory and comprehension;
  • to initiate individual and collaborative thinking in response to new information;
  • seek the views and opinions of students;
  • provide an opportunity for students to share their opinions/views, seeking responses from their peers;
  • encourage creative thought and imaginative or innovative thinking;
  • foster speculation, hypothesis and idea/opinion forming;
  • create a sense of shared learning and avoid the feel of a ‘lecture’;
  • challenge the level of thinking and possibly mark a change to a higher order of thinking;
  • model higher order thinking using examples and building on the responses of students.

18 TACTICS FOR EFFECTIVE QUESTIONING

Effective questioning sessions in  the classroom require advance preparation. While some teachers may be skilled in extemporaneous questioning, many find that such questions have phrasing problems, are not organized in a logical sequence, or do not require students to use the desired thinking skills. As a result, it is important to think of strategies or tactics to help students’ understanding.

Since teachers use the strategy of questioning so frequently, there is a need to learn to SKILLFULLY, THOUGHTFULLY, and INTENTIONALLY ask questions to gain the results we want with our students. Such strategies include . . .

 1. Asking One Question At A Time: Sometimes, in an effort to generate a response, teachers attempt to clarify a question by rephrasing it. But often the rephrasing constitutes an entirely new question. Keep your questions brief and clear. Long complex questions may lose the class.

2. Avoiding Yes/No Questions: Ask “why” or “how” questions that lead students to try to figure out things for themselves. Teachers cannot get a discussion going if they ask questions that only require a one-syllable or short-phrase response. The key is to minimise the use of “yes / no” questions except when checking meaning and understanding or encouraging weaker students.

3. Pose Questions That Lack A Single Right Answer: Such questions emphasize to students that the answers to these questions are matters of controversy or puzzlement to scholars and asks the class to generate their own hypotheses. The answer to such questions remains unsolved.

4. Asking Focused Questions: Avoid asking broad questions which can lead your class far off the topic. Instead, ask questions which are focused to the work at hand, eg: “What are your thoughts on the title of the short story? Justify your answer.”

5. Avoiding Leading Questions: Instead, ask questions that are open-ended (divergent) to encourage opinions, elaboration and discussion. Similarly, avoid answering your own question/s.

6. Building In Wait Time: Research suggests that if the teacher waits about THREE SECONDS, both before a student answers a question and also before speaking after the answer, there are substantial benefits in the classroom. It is likely to:

  • encourage longer answers;
  • encourage a greater number and variety of responses;
  • encourage more confidence and ‘risk taking’;
  • encourage students to ask questions in return.

WAITING is a signal that you want thoughtful participation.  You might also want to wait until several hands have been raised to let the students know that replies do not have to be formulated quickly to be considered.

7. Searching For Consensus On Correct Responses. If one student immediately gives a correct response, follow up by asking others what they think. “Do you agree, Hady?” is a good way to get students involved in the discussion. So, try to personalise questions where possible.

8. Asking Questions That Require Students To Demonstrate Their Understanding: Instead of “Does everybody see how I got this answer?” ask, “Why did I substitute the value of the delta in this equation?” If you want to ask, “Do you have any questions?” rephrase it to “What questions do you have?” The latter implies that you expect questions and are encouraging students to ask them.

9. Structuring Questions To Encourage Student-To-Student Interaction: “Sam, could you relate that to what Molly said earlier?” Be prepared to help Sam recall what Molly said. Students become more attentive when you ask questions that require them to respond to each other.

10. Drawing Out Reserved Or Reluctant Students: Sometimes a question disguised as an instructor’s musings will encourage students who are hesitant to speak. For example, instead of “What is the essence or thesis of John Dewey’s work?” saying, “I wonder if it’s accurate to describe John Dewey’s work as learning by doing?” gives a student a chance to comment without feeling put on the spot.

11. Using Questions To Change The Tempo And Direction Of The Discussion, Kasulis (1984) identifies several ways to use such types of questions.

  • To lay out perspectives: “If you had to pick just one factor?” or “In a few words, name the most important reason?” This form of questioning can also be used to cap talkative students.
  • To move from abstract to concrete, or general to specific: “If you were to generalize . . . ?” or “Can you give some specific examples . . . ?”
  • To acknowledge good points made previously: “Sandra, would you tend to agree with Francisco on this point about . . . ?”
  • To elicit a summary or give closure: “Beth if you had to pick two themes that recurred most often today, what would they be?”

12. Using Probing Strategies: When a student responds to a question, probes are useful follow-ups and can be used to seek more information, to clarify responses or to get to extend their answers. Questions such as ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ are very good.  Probes can ask for specifics, clarifications, consequences, elaborations, parallel examples, relationship to other issues, or explanations. Probes are important because they help students explore and express what they know even when they aren’t sure they know it.

13. Creating a climate where students feel safe to make mistakes: This is very important if students are going to build the confidence to speculate and take risks. It is important that students’ contributions are listened to and taken seriously by both the teacher and the class. You should model this by ensuring that you make appropriate responses to contributions and are not critical. It is also important that you do not allow the class to ridicule wrong answers. You could also model making mistakes yourself to show that being wrong is acceptable.

14. Using a ‘no-hands up’ rule: This tactic can contribute to creating a supportive classroom climate. It ensures that all students are likely to be asked for a response and makes the questioning process more inclusive. If you only ever ask people with their hands up, it limits who is included and can leave some students disengaged from the process. The ‘no-hands’ tactic also lets you direct questions where you want and to pitch a question at the appropriate level to extend the student you are asking.

15. Telling students the big question in advance: This helps to reinforce the main ideas and concepts and gives students time to prepare for the question as they work through the lesson. You could also provide signals to help students recognise the range of possible responses to the question being asked and to help them to select the most appropriate one.

16. Allowing time for collaboration before answering: Asking pairs of students to consider the question for a set period of time before seeking answers leads to more thoughtful and considered answers. It can also promote engagement by giving students a very immediate context for their work.

17. Placing a minimum requirement on the answer: Saying something like ‘Do not answer this in less than 15 words’ will begin to produce longer responses. Firstly, make sure that students clearly understand questions and then spread them randomly around the class.

18. Asking questions about important rather than trivial content by deciding on the purpose of questions.

There are pitfalls such as over-eliciting when the learners have little collective knowledge, and bombarding students with questions of little relevance or importance. The questions ‘Do you understand?’, ‘Is that clear?’ and ‘OK?’ are unlikely to provoke a helpful response. It is also wise to avoid questions which may cause embarrassment or which may offend through sarcasm (‘Are you awake?’).

pexels-photo.jpgCertainly, there is more to asking questions than the common division into ‘information’ or ‘wh’, ‘yes/no’, direct and indirect questions, though this is often how they are taught and how learners categorise them. The above tactics are tried and tested ways to engage fully our students.

Good questioning provides a model which hopefully will promote correct and intelligent questions from our learners.

Good luck in all endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

EXCELLENT IDEAS ON WHAT TEACHERS WANT FROM PARENTS @ HIGH SCHOOL

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IN MY TWENTY-FIVE YEARS in the teaching profession, there have been moments where I felt parents to be overbearing, and working with them caused the most dedicated teacher to burn with frustration.

But from the parents’ perspective, dealing with teachers can be an anxiety-ridden and an exasperating ordeal. The biggest problem stemming from this disconnection between parents and teachers is that students are caught in the middle, and at times, if not handled well, their potential to advance, is hindered.

pexels-photo-256548.jpegThe relationship between teachers and parents is an extremely powerful component in a student’s success story. Yet, so many parents go through the school year without communicating with the teacher or understanding what to do (or avoid) to make the most of the year. But while most of us would hope to behave rather better when it comes to dealings with our children’s teachers, there are many among us, who are found wanting in many aspects. In short, are we really giving the profession our full respect?

Just consider this . . .

  • Top American teaching guru, Ron Clark points out: “Today, new teachers remain in our profession for an average of just four and a half years, and many of them list ‘issues with parents’ as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel.”
  • Kevin Rooney, Head of Social Science at a school in the UK insisted: “We need to let parents be parents and let teachers teach. A pressing issue is the loss of teacher autonomy in the classroom.”

Whether it’s outright hostility or a loss of respect, many teachers would say it’s not just the students who need lessons in how to behave – but that parents too, might benefit from a few do’s and don’ts.

So, being more proactive means going inside the mind of a teacher to discover what parents should and shouldn’t do to make the most of the school year.

17 Things English Teachers Want Parents To Know @ High School

Teachers carry a lot of responsibility when it comes to the classroom. Not only are they in charge of the learning experience for each student, but they’re also in charge of the well-being of each student in their care. The load is heavy but could be lightened with some help and understanding from parents.

Here are 17 things English Teachers @ High School really want parents to know to help make the educational experience run a little smoother.

1. BE INVOLVEDYes, teachers do want parents to get actively involved. But that doesn’t mean thinking you know better when it comes to the English curriculum decisions, or what marks to give your oh-so gifted offspring.

What it does mean is more than just turning up to parents’ evenings but that a parent’s involvement helps students learn, improve schools and helps teachers work with you to help your children succeed.

So, keep communication lines open, checking in every so often to raise any questions you may have. If possible, volunteer to help occasionally – or ask the teachers if there is anything you can do at home.

2. CHECK UP ON YOUR CHILDRENPlease do look at their timetables and go through their folders with them regularly – so they know you’re on top of what they should be doing. You will be surprised that even those in senior year have some deficiencies. Check on them, please.

And read every letter and report that’s sent home with your child.

3. BE ORGANIZED – You can’t be expected to know about the letter you need to sign if it’s crumpled in the bottom of the bag. Establish a routine where your child clears out their bag nightly so you get any important letters and homework doesn’t disappear into the black hole.

4. HOMEWORK IS FOR STUDENTS – There’s a fine line between helping and taking over. It’s important to review your little one’s English homework, but if he or she gets an answer wrong don’t just tell them the right answer – help them understand why.

“Homework is for children not parents – if it’s really beyond their capabilities, let the teacher know.”

5. LET YOUR CHILD MAKE MISTAKES – We, English teachers don’t want perfect students only; we want students who try hard. Don’t get caught up in thinking every assignment has to be perfect. It’s important for teachers to see where a child is going wrong, so they can go over the material again.

6. DON’T LEAP ON THE DEFENSIVE – Remember, teachers are usually in the job because they want to teach – not because they’re out to get you/your child.

So, if you’re told there is a problem with your child’s behaviour, don’t jump to their defence – LISTEN to what the teacher has to say. As one quips: “Don’t automatically believe everything your child tells you and, in turn, we won’t believe everything they say about you!”

Tiffany Jean Williams-Solod said: “As a teacher (oh yes, I am both) I want parents to stop blaming teachers and start working with us. We can’t fix everything, but remember we are humans and we aren’t perfect. Also, teach your kids to respect us.”

7. TRUST IN THE TEACHER’S FEEDBACK  Just because a child doesn’t exhibit a particular behavior at home doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t exhibit that behavior in the classroom. So, if a teacher reports a particular behavior that you haven’t seen before, don’t rush to say, “Well, I’ve never seen my child do that.” The classroom and home environments are quite different, and often times, children behave differently when forced to follow rules and work with peers. LISTEN to what the teacher has to say and work with him/her to find a solution.

Ron Clark wrote: “We are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it.”

8. RESPECT THE TEACHER – Remember that the teacher is on your side. Teachers truly care about your children and want them to be successful.

Nelson explains: “The child’s success is our success. If your child’s teacher contacts you about a problem or something that happened at school, understand that the teacher is trying to work with you to resolve any conflicts that may be getting in the way of your child’s success. We’re all on the same team.”

Similarly, don’t talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child as Ron Clark points out: “If your child knows you don’t respect their teachers they won’t either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.”

9. DON’T SHOW UP FOR A MEETING UNANNOUNCED It’s great if you want to meet with the English teacher to discuss an issue or chat about your child, but don’t show up at school without any warning. Instead, schedule a time to meet—not only does this show that you respect the teacher’s time, but it also gives him/her time to prepare for the meeting and provide you with everything you want to know. Always give an agenda for your meeting.

10. MANNERS ARE IMPORTANT – Good manners go a long way in a student’s life as one teacher pointed out: “As much as I treat all students equally, the child who remembers to say ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’ is thought of more fondly.” This also means parents must always address behavior issues at home. The English saying, “the apple does not fall very far from the tree” is quite apt. It is a strong reminder for us as parents!

“Children don’t enjoy getting in trouble, so when they come home and tell you about how mean the teacher is, keep in mind they may be telling the story in a way that they won’t get punished.”

If this happens, try to get to the heart of the issue and uncover the facts so you can address it.

11. IF THE TEACHER IS DOING SOMETHING RIGHT, LET THEM KNOW – Buck the trend and send an email or call when your child enjoys a class event, or says something nice about their English Teacher. It can make all the difference. And if you’re really pleased, why not let the head know? Surely, who doesn’t need praise and recognition?

Cindy Hoffman. “We’re in a partnership, trying to do the best for the children as possible. Please don’t treat us as adversaries.”

12. IF THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG, DON’T OVERREACT – If there’s something you’re not happy about, speak to the teacher first rather than going straight to the head/head of year.

As one teacher wryly says: “If you’ve got a problem, come and see me first, going straight to the head is just rude. Next time I have a problem with little Jamie and your parenting style, I’ll ring your boss and see how you like it.”

This also means . . .

13. GIVE TEACHERS TIME TO RESPOND – Communication between teachers and parents is a positive thing especially when it helps keep both sides on top of the student’s work and performance levels. However, teachers would like parents to remember that they are not the teacher of just one child, but of many and this means giving the teacher time to respond.

Communicate with the teacher and then wait. Give the teacher a few days to respond before sending a second note or calling and accusing the teacher of not paying attention to the note. You’ll be amazed how much better the response will be when an appropriate amount of response time is given.

Tiffany Jean Williams-Solod, can relate to both worlds – “As a parent, I want my child challenged every single day, and if she doesn’t get it, please tell me so I can assist you. Don’t be afraid to tell me if my child disrespects you.”

14. PARENT PRAISE IS IMPORTANT for Students – Teachers have a way of knowing which student is receiving positive feedback and encouragement from parents at home and which student isn’t. It shows in how the student performs in the classroom.

Students who are praised for their hard work at home tend to strive even more to continue performing well at school. However, students who don’t receive praise in any form from their parents often take on a nonchalant attitude at school. For instance, if no one really cares how well or how bad the student does in school, then the student may assume there’s no point in trying.

Parents need to cheer for their children and take an active role in praising them for a job well done.

15. THE HOME IS A CLASSROOM TOO – While teachers are responsible for educating students in a broad variety of subjects, they can’t be responsible for teaching students everything. Basic life lessons in how to treat others, knowing right from wrong, learning how to cook, etc need to be taught at home by the parents.

Life skills can help students prepare for situations at school and in life. Parents can help increase their student’s knowledge by using the home as a learning environment as well.

16. PARENTS, BE A PARTNER INSTEAD OF A PROSECUTOR – Parents need to know that it’s OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong.

This equally means . . .

17. PLEASE, QUIT WITH ALL THE EXCUSES –  This is similar to #6 but here teachers really want to help your children be successful, so stop making excuses for them. Thus, some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn towards excuses and do not create a strong work ethic.

If you don’t want your child to end up at 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren’t succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions by involving their teachers.

On a final note, please remember that teachers are not perfect humans and you are not a perfect parent, but we are working together for the best of this child. Let us keep it that way.

I am a Teacher and a Parent myself, so, the above issues are a general overview of what I have experienced over the years.

There are many excellent parents out there who want the best and work well with their children’s teachers. Please keep it up! If you have fallen short in some areas, it is never too late to make amends. Go for it!

Exper Experience

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!