image from: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/daniel-bogado-patrick-speaks

Patrick Learns to Speak: Design Thinking for Teaching Compassion, Team-Work, and Creative Process

prototype 5The challenge: in our world, many people are unable to relate to the needs and lives of others. That said, teenagers, with limited life experiences, and with their tendency to see the world through a rather narrow scope, are paradoxically poised for some of the most powerful connections a human can know.

What does a 15 year old at a private school in San Francisco have in common with Patrick?

Patrick is a deaf 15 year old in a rural area of Uganda. He spent the first 15 years of his life cut off from others, communicating only with crude gestures…until a teacher named Raymod Okkelo taught him sign language. His story came to me via Facebook, and it moved me.

I teach a course called Mystery of Connection. It’s about the pitfalls and paradoxes of human relationships. They are both necessary and impossible, the best and most challenging things in our lives, the source of heartache and joy. Teenagers want desperately to understand and process their own relationships. Thus, the class.

I had already designed a unit, inspired by a Silicon Valley design company called IDEO. They produced something called Design Thinking For Educators, and while I have many criticisms, it lead me to design a unit in which students explore a well known Hebrew Bible story, explore the themes in their own lives, and produce a work of art in three stages: sketch, prototype 1.0, and prototype 2.0.

The students were ready to share their second prototypes, but today was the day before Thanksgiving break. Many students were missing. And I’d been struck by Patrick’s story. An idea came to me, on the spot: let’s do an exercise on empathy, art, brainstorming, creativity, and teamwork.


Phase 1: Students Watch Video.

Text, Self, Philosophy TrianglePhase 2: Students use SELF, TEXT, PHILOSOPHY/THEME triangle to design a sketch in under ten minutes. In short, the sketch must:

  1. Show the imagery, words, or phrases in the Mt. Sinai text.
  2. Demonstrate or describe one of the themes of the text, as students had already explored in the major project, a week earlier.
  3. Make the piece about Patrick – his past (as presented by the video) and his future.

(Their Anchorwork – work to be done while waiting for next steps) was a paper revision and / or a worksheet.

prototype 3Phase 3: Students are paired up to share their drawing. They had 10 minutes to create a sketch that was a hybrid of the two sketches. As I walked around, students speculated about Patrick’s life – the silence and loneliness of his past, his smiling as he connected to others in the story, and his future – and all the new possibilities.

Phase 4: Pairs are combined; groups of 4 have 5 minutes to create a hybrid of all their work.

Phase 5: The two teams of 4 then present their work to each other.

prototype 1Phase 6: The whole group of 8 debated how to create a single work, including elements and ideas from all 8 students.

Phase 7: Two students (one from each team) drew the final design on the board while the other students worked on Anchorwork.


patrickThe Final Product

The final product is a design that combines powerful emotion, with images of loneliness and connection: ears and eyes, hands and motion, fire and a mountain, and out of the top, a brave and powerful fist breaking forth.

Students seemed amazed that they had come up with this.

We spent some time talking about Patrick and the power of his new speech.


This Thanksgiving, I will be mindful of voices – the voices of people in the world, and in our own nation, silenced by oppression.

But this Thanksgiving, I will also be thankful: of the privileges and blessings in my life, for the power of words which brings me closer to the people around me, for my students, for trying something new.

And for the teacher who opened up Patrick’s hands – and his world.

cathate

Open to Interpretation: The Problem With Potential (Dvar Torah Toldot)

cathate“Johnny is not performing up to his potential.”

First of all, we need to let Johnny off the hook. Johnny can’t read, Johnny can’t write, Johnny isn’t living up to his potential. Give Johnny a break.

That said, a second problem lurks in Johnny’s report card. Ask any student how he or she feels when a teacher says

If Johnny could speak, he might say, “How does the teacher know what my potential is?”

Indeed, some teachers use this phrase as a way of saying that the student could – and should – rise to a higher level of performance, but as a result of some character flaw, some insufficient effort, he or she is falling into a pit of mediocrity.

More and more, teachers are learning not to fixate on abstract judgments. Teachers are learning to talk about steps that need to be taken to acquire and perfect skills. Teachers are focusing less on some vague notion of effort, and more on particular forms of practice. Teachers are learning to do less judging, and learning to do more coaching, guiding, and presenting opportunities for success.


twincatsIn this week’s Parsha, we learn about the potential of two unborn twins, Jacob and Esau. Rebecca, the expecting mother, has been longing for a child, and when she finally conceives, behold: twins! The twins struggle within her, however, and she is miserable. She inquires of God, who says:

Two nations are in thy womb, And two peoples shall be separated from thy womb; And the one people shall be stronger than the other people; And the elder shall serve the younger.

As a teacher, my first response is: how horrid! Two children, symbols of infinite possibility, have their destinies laid out even before birth? How can this be?

On the one hand, we can go down the “God knows all” rabbit hole, wherein we debate how there is such a thing as free will if God knows what will happen.

A more interesting approach requires some familiarity with the Hebrew. The translation above, like all translations, is an interpretation. Word for word, God’s speech is:

One nation will prevail over the other nation: and the older, [he] will serve the younger.

yodaSometimes, Biblical hebrew syntax is unclear. In this case, It’s hard to know whether to interpret the line to mean a) the older, he (the older) will serve the younger… or b) the older, the younger he will serve (him). You know, like Yoda speaks. “Powerful with the force, you are.” Who will serve whom?

Exactly! Rather than argue about the correct translation, I’d like to suggest that this is the clever Author’s way of saying that while it is likely that two competitive children will go on to become competitive adults, the “jury is out,” so to speak, on who will serve who. Their potential is, truly, unwritten.


So, Johnny. As your teacher, I see that you are having trouble reading. I see that you have trouble writing. I see that you haven’t done your homework in three years.

And I’d like to suggest that there is a correlation between success and practice.

And if you’d like me to help you, Johnny, I’m here to help.

lolcat_Listening

Using ClassDojo to Teach Active Listening

lolcat_ListeningStudent A: “Ok, on to number 4.”

Student B: “I think the evidence shows that Hamlet is a hedgehog.”

Student A: “The evidence shows… that Hamlet is a … how do you spell hedgehog?”


You’ve heard partner-work sessions like this. No matter how many times you may remind students that they are not working with another person in order to avoid doing half of the work (or, heaven forbid, simply to copy each other’s answers), teenagers are biologically programmed to save their energy for important things with real-life value. Like scoring invitations to parties. Teenagers are not automatically invested in hearing, understanding, assessing, and responding to their assigned partner’s ideas.

Rather, students must learn, month by month, and year by year, to listen like a therapist, assess like a scientist, and respond like a friend.

It’s a slow process. But the reward can be dynamic, thoughtful discussion. And students will thank you for teaching them skills that they use in their real-life relationships.

The first step to get there is to teach Compassionate Listening.


listeningcatsCompassionate Listening is not one student parroting the words of the other student, though, when done improperly, it sounds like that.

Compassionate listening is where the Listener

  • asks follow-up questions to “unpack” the speaker’s statement
  • “track the deeper meaning” of the speaker’s statement
  • carefully attending to the main kernal
  • and finally, expressing it in the listener’s own words.
  • When possible, the listener my employ a metaphor or image to encapsulate the meaning.
  • Then, critically, the Listener waits for acknowledgement that s/he has seen, heard, and understood the main idea. If s/he missed the point, or there is another level of meaning the Speaker wants to share, then the cycle goes around.

I call this process “Reflect Re-reflect” and you can read more about it here. And boiled down, it looks like this:

  • Listening / Unpacking
  • Reflecting.
  • Waiting for acknowledgement.

For example:

Listening / Unpacking

Student A: I think that Hamlet is a coward.

Student B: Why do you think that?

Student A: Because he won’t do what he is supposed to do.

Student B: Why do you think he won’t do what he is supposed to do?

Student A: Because he tosses and turns over it, and no matter the decision, he feels torn about whether it’s the right thing to do, or whether it will work, and whether it will actually accomplish anything.”

Reflecting (with metaphor):

Student B: So Hamlet is sort of in a maze…and whichever direction he tries to go, he finds himself at a dead end.

Waiting for acknowledgement:

Student A: Yeah.

Student B: So, it’s less that he’s a coward, and more like he’s paralyzed.

Student A: Hm. Yeah.

Notice the difference between Compassionate Listening and “parroting?” Parroting would have ended with:

“So, you think Hamlet is a coward.”

“Yes.”

“Ok. Question 5.”

Compassionate listening is helping the partner to articulate his/her own ideas in a deeper, more accurate, and more nuanced way than s/he could by him/herself.

How does one teach this?

At the beginning of the year, you must spend some time unpacking what Compassionate Listening is. You might want to share some articles or video clips on the power of this sort of conversation, reflect on how it’s different from simple cooperation or from normal conversation.

Then, begin to focus on Reflection.

As complex as analysis, critique, and synthesizing new ideas may be, none of it happens without the first step of careful listening and reflecting.

On ClassDojo, create two badges: “Reflects without prompting” and “Reflects only after prompting.”

Show your students what ClassDojo looks like on your tablet / smartphone (so they know what you’re doing).

And when you send students into partner work, use the randomizer to send you to a pair of partners. Quietly sit down near them – do not speak to them or let them break conversation to talk to you – and listen.

  • After one student speaks, does the second student reflect? If not, gently remind him or her, and mark it on ClassDojo.
  • Does the initial speaker go on and on, not allowing the listener the chance to reflect and check for understanding?  If not, gently remind him or her, and mark it on ClassDojo.
  • If the initial speaker says something that requires “unpacking” – does the listener ask questions to unpack it? Or reflect at a superficial level? Again, you can gently remind him or her, and mark it on ClassDojo.

At the end of the quarter, scan the students badges, and share your observations with your students (in whatever form you usually do so – written, in reports, or in mini-meetings).

To watch Reflect-Re Reflect in Action, watch this animated example below!

comic confirm

Youtube Search n’ Review: Lesson Plan Example

confirmation kittooseA Youtube Search n’ Review is a great way to start a class. It’s interesting for the students, and it buys you time. Sip your coffee and clear your head while they work!


INSTRUCTIONS to CLASS

1. Do a YOUTUBE SEARCH on the topic of “Confirmation Bias” or “Confirmatory Bias.”

2. Watch TWO videos (must be under 4 mins, each). Use headphones. If you don’t have any, use the headphones in the bin in the back of the class.

3. After watching, in your class notes,

A) explain confirmation bias in your own words.

B. Give the video a Grade (A thru F) in TWO categories. Category 1: how clearly it explained it. Category 2: How fun it was to watch.

C) explain why you graded it this way.


Then, discuss.

image from: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/daniel-bogado-patrick-speaks

ClassDojo High School: Getting Started (Part 1)

dojoThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


When I was in kindergarten, my parents went to meet with Ms. Shanebourn and brought home what I would later call a report-card. In reality, it was like the check-list you fill in at a sushi-bar: plays well with others, cleans up after snack, spicy-tuna rising sun firecracker roll.

In middle school, the list was shorter, and letter grades appeared, but there were also areas for additional remarks. That’s where I learned that I am “funny” and “a pleasure in class.”

In high school, my grade was a letter with a few electronic tics next to pre-fabbed comments. There, no news was good news.

In college, just letters. Most were good. A few bummed me out. (Darn you, Stats!)

In short, this trend suggests that the older you get, the less “the system” cares about helping you to learn through providing thoughtful mentoring on your growth areas, and the more you are required to guess, assess, or maybe ask why you got a B and what you can do next semester to raise it.

ClassDojo, at the High School Level, can help a teacher provide thoughtful, meaningful assessment on both “academic” and “character skills” which can lead to meaningful conversation, feedback, and growth. (I put those words in quotes because while it’s useful to employ those terms to describe the range, it may be counterproductive to think of those categories as discrete or mutually exclusive).

In this post, and three to come, I’ve compiled four areas for using ClassDojo to provide meaningful feedback and a few strategies for using the data in meaningful ways. Mix and match, experiment, and let us know how it works for you!


ClassDojo Category 1: Student Ethic Modifier

How do you give a grade – or reward – or penalize a student for:

  1. Contributing to discussion or disrupting discussion?
  2. Showing up late vs. showing up on time?
  3. Surrepticiously checking facebook during group work time?
  4. Showing up for an appointment on time vs. not showing up?
  5. Responding to emails promptly vs. ignoring them?
  6. Coming to see you for problem-solving after a D- on a test vs. allowing problems to go unaddressed.
  7. Helping students struggling with their work – or their technology – or not?
  8. Talking out of turn, falling out of chairs, throwing things, leaving messes… cheering up a sad classmate, asking permission to assist a sick student, cleaning up after others…

It goes on and on.

Do you give a “Class Participation Grade?” If so, do you punish negative behaviors but “neutral” behaviors get nothing? Are they rewarded? Is a 100% class participation grade exemplary or normal? How do you weigh the relative merit of a student who raises his hand before speaking when also, he is late for class. Does he earn a B+? A-? C?

The Solution: Student Ethic Modifier.

The Student Ethic Modifier is, on the one hand, the place in your gradebook where you assess everything that isn’t a quiz, test, or project. Some teachers call this a “class participation grade,” but for me, it’s at once more broad (covering not only how the student contributes to discussion or labs, but also things like correct computer use) and also more specific, covering things like whether a student deals with crises as they arise or lets them slide by until you chase him down in the hallway: aka the Cafeteria Intervention.

The Student Ethic Modifier covers some of the most important learning and growth goals; unfortunately, without gathering actual data, we rely on spotty recollection and anecdotal evidence.

How do you record this data and share this data?

ClassDojo


Step 1: At the beginning of the year, spend a class period talking about the Student Ethic Modifier. Cover how it:

  1. Fosters a serious, constructive learning environment
  2. Brings students’ attention to behavior patterns that can make them more or less effective in other classes, in jobs, and even in relationships.
  3. Can ensure that the learning done in class sticks – and makes class worth their while.

Step 2: Present ClassDojo and the particular badges you will be assessing. In discussion or as homework, as students to review the list. What do they have questions or concerns about? What should be added?

Step 3: Present your ClassDojo Workflow.

  • Will you have the screen projected on the board for all to see?

My suggestion: at the high school level, and certainly in your first year, don’t project it. But offer that any student who wants to know what you’ve been recording about him/her can approach you after class or at your desk.


  • Will your tablet/smartphone ding or buzz when a student earns a badge, providing in-the-moment feedback?

My suggestion: for the first year, set all sounds to “off” while you get the hang of it. Then, experiment with it.


  • Will you hand out green chips for students in-the-moment which they bring to you after class to earn their badges, or will you commit to keeping on top of the badges on the spot?

My suggestion: keep ClassDojo on a smartphone for peripatetic feedback, and a tablet near your workstation for feedback during quiet worktime. If you can manage this, you may not need to hand out chips, especially at the high school level. That said, the extra visual, tactile feedback of a green chip may reinforce the behavior more effectively than a sound, and this technique might work well for certain students.


  • Will you provide them with the access code – and their families with the access code?

My suggestion: communicate with parents about the tool and your goals, field questions and concerns, but do not provide access in the first year, until you get the hang of it.


  • Will each red badge lower their grade and each green badge raise it?

My suggestion: reassure students that in almost every case, small mistakes that don’t reappear will have no effect on the Student Ethic Modifier. Trends (I usually call that three or more) will have an effect. Talk with students about what you expect of them if you inform them that they have been trending in a problematic way. For example, after 3 missed homeworks (yes, I count homework under Student Ethic), they are required to send an email to their advisor, apprising them of the situation. You and the advisor can then decide what the next course of action should be.

All this said, there is no “correct” or “incorrect” way to use ClassDojo. Make a decision you can live with and stick to it for a semester. Then reevaluate. This, by the way, is a great topic to discuss with your Mentor.

Step 4: At the end of the quarter and semester, when you sit down to grade and write progress reports or narratives, review the ClassDojo Student Ethic data, especially focusing on trends, shifts, and anecdotes noteworthy enough that, well, you took a note.

By the way, if you’re curious to learn more about the Student Ethic Modifier and would like to read more in depth about what adopting a Student Ethic Modifier can do for your class, check out the blog, here.

Sometimes.

Getting Down Off Your “High Camel” : Where should a teacher stand/sit in class?

No.

No.

The following piece sits at the intersection of two loves: Torah and Education. I welcome those unfamiliar with the Jewish world of Bible Exegesis to enjoy an unusual spin on an ancient text.


A long time ago, I had a prescient image of my future self. I’d seen some movie where the teacher was sitting on the edge of his desk, facing the class, waxing poetic about whatever.

donnie d

Sometimes.

Years later, yes, I do that sometimes. But only sometimes.

Class begins, frequently, with story-telling on a plot. The topic is posted on the class online-calendar. Students write, and then we share. Sometimes, if I think the story is edutaining, I might sit on the edge of the desk and summon my story-telling skills. I might look a little like that teacher I’d imagined, a long time ago.

Most of the time, however, I walk around the room. Sometimes I stand on a chair. Sometimes I sit on the floor. Often, since I am using a wireless laptop projector, I break the fourth wall, plop down in the middle of the classroom, at an empty desk, and conduct class from wherever. From everywhere.


Sometimes.

No.

In this week’s Torah Portion, a critical encounter takes place. Isaac, forefather of the Jewish People, meets his wife, Rebecca, matriarch of the Jewish people. The text describes their encounter in oddly physical terms:

Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel (Ex 24:63).

Why does the text tell us about Rebekah’s dismount from the camel? Why include that detail at all?

Is body position, perhaps, a key ingredient in authentic encounter?


When I set up my class, I try to create a circle. A circle symbolizes equality and democracy. Like Rivka in the text above, in order to meet my students in true encounter, I need to get down off my high-camel, and meet my students where they are.

I sit on one side of the room one week, and the other side of the class the following week.

No.

No.

And when students work in groups, I try not to hover over them like a threatening presence – I sit down, at their level, and listen. I try not to interrupt. I enter the group quietly and respectfully, and I leave the same way.

When students sit on the ground, I sit on the ground.

And when I must take a place at the front of the room, there is no desk between me and my students. I push the desk to the side and leave open space.

Learning, like all encounters, take place best when there is space created for feeling safe and seen. Sometimes, my classroom is a seminar hall, but often, it is a salon in a comfy living room. Sometimes it’s a cafe. Sometimes it’s a design studio. Sometimes, it’s like a 70’s-style rap session, with everyone in a circle.

But always, I want my students to see me, not by looking up at me.

I want them to open their eyes, and see me, as often as possible, wherever they need me.

batman

The Calendar and the Template: The Batman and Robin of Lesson Planning and Presenting

batmanThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners,a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


The hardest thing about lesson planning is the blank page.

And the hardest thing about starting class: when students enter the room, unless you make it so, your classroom is a blank page. Sure, you have posters on the wall, and you’re midway through a unit.

But unless your posters and unit are as interesting as whatever the students were talking and thinking about in the hallway on the way to class (and let’s face it, to most students, it’s not), the students walk in the room with their own agenda. Their agenda is: try not to do anything.

The good news is that most students, being social beings, will step into line as class begins, even if you’re not playing your A game. The better news is that if you’ve set up class effectively, the span of time between “blank page” and “being productive” can be shortened.

How do you get students to get into gear? How do you reduce the behaviors that make it hard to start class? How do you get students thinking, quiet, and productive — reviewing the themes of the class —while you take attendance? How do you organize your lesson planning workflow so you never forget to include essential components?

The answer is the same for all these: lesson plan with a template, and make the lesson plan available to students upon entering class.

There are low-tech and hi-tech ways to do this; allow me to share a few, and their pros and cons.


Hi-Tech — Editor’s Choice: Google Calendar

By far, my favorite way to present the days work, including the vital “first thing work” that gets students quiet and engaged for 5-10 minutes is a shared Google Calendar. While many schools have a Learning Management System that allows teachers to post their lesson plan for the day, I often find that these LMS calendars similar to, well, the free email that comes with your Cable Internet – you know: lmaluddite@Glopast.com. It works. But the tool doesn’t get updated or improved or work well across the most common devices like Google Calendar does.

I begin the year, during the first week of orientation, teaching students how to bookmark the shared class Google Calendar from a laptop, and even a smartphone/tablet.

Each day, as students enter the room, they open their tablets, phones, or laptops and see the entire day’s lesson plan. It always begins with First Thing Work, and ends with Homework and students I need to meet with. For a detailed description of the various elements built into each day’s template, I invite you to check out A Template For Change – And Workflow.

Additional Benefits:

  • Unlike some other class calendars, a student can open the class Google Calendar integrated with their own Google Calendar. As a result, if they have already begun using Google Calendar for their own lives, they can easily keep track of classes they missed and the lesson plan, homework, and announcements for that day – on the same calendar they check which day they have Disney Musical Club, their Jai Alai tournament, and their family trip to Walla Walla.
  • If you make a mistake that needs correcting in class – the link to an assignment is broken, say, or you decide you want to change the homework assignment — once you change it in the Google Calendar, it’s changed for everyone, instantly.
  • You have the same access to the class calendar from excellent smartphone apps that you do from your work laptop. This means you can COMPOSE YOUR LESSON PLAN ON GOOGLE CALENDAR! I suggest you combine the calendar with a Template – to keep your thinking organized. For more on lesson planning with Templates, I invite you to read: How Not To Cook From Scratch.
  • Referencing how you did something last year: I used to use Word for lesson planning, and by the end of the year, I had dozens and dozens of files – one for each day. I could never find anything. Now, when I want to see what I did last year, I can browse the classes on the calendar – or search for a word or phrase I know I used in my lesson planning.
  • Fast and Portable Lesson Plan Fixing and Peeking: You’re in class, moving around the students, keeping an eye on the playing field. Are you going to bring your laptop with you? No. What do you do when you need to check what’s next? You look at your smartphone, where the same Google Calendar is ready for you to look at. Or, on the way to class, you can adjust a prompt, fix a page number, or jot a note under: assignments. From your smartphone! While walking!

Cons:

Students need regular access to a device: school provided or “BYOD.”


Low-Tech — Editor’s Choice: Overhead Projector

Ah, the lowly overhead projector. It’s actually not so lowly. It has major benefits over the whiteboard (the other place you might write a Low-Tech lesson plan)

Mainly: with a teeny bit of planning and the flick of a switch, your lesson plan is ready. You can write your plans in advance, file them in a filing system, and refer to them as needed.

Benefits:

Besides being low tech and inexpensive, it’s easier to browse your lesson plans written this way, just as it’s easier to browse through a book than to click and click and click.

Rewarding students for checking the calendar: how do you reward students for coming to class, checking the calendar, and getting to work? ClassDojo! The first three students quietly working get a badge! The last two also get a badge!