Classroom Tip #8--Student Control
Sometimes allow students to choose what they wish to do next. Sometimes allow students to write their own examinations. Sometimes allow students to negotiate what will happen next in the classroom. Allowing students to "take charge" is not as dangerous as it sounds. The only real choice you are offering is what to do next in the learning process--no matter what they choose it is already a part of your lesson plan. But allowing students to feel in control, gives them a sense of being invested in the learning process. Even very young students can gain this sense of investment by being allowed to choose what to do first.
Classroom Tip #9--Use Praise Sparingly
Praise is not always reinforcing. For some students, praise does not work well at all. For other students, praise may become a hook to external rewards. When you forget to praise them, they may grow quickly discouraged and cease working for you. The best praise is always very specific. It may be a note at the top of a paper (or a rubber stamp that says,
Classroom Tip #10--How Can You Tell If Motivation Is Working?
Some of the outstanding researchers in classroom management--Walter Doyle, Donald Cruickshank, and others--have cited the following as signs that your classroom is responding to positive motivation. See how many of these you think are true of your class: (1) Students are not afraid to try something new. (2) Students listen to one another without undue interruptions. (3) Students are comfortable working in small groups with other class members. (4) Students are willing to share information and teach one another. (5) Students know that they are important.
Classroom Tip #11--What Rewards Tend to Work?
Be clever. Rewards come in all styles, sizes, shapes, and attitudes. The best reinforcement is one that relates directly to an actual need of the student. For example, if a child is lonely, just a frequent smile or side comment may be more effective than any candy or token. Classroom board games tend to work as rewards, since students typically enjoy interacting with other students in the class. The New Siddur Program includes classroom board games that reinforce many of the learnings. These can easily be used as rewards. Rewards never work when they are given in advance. The smallest possible reward is the most effective--be careful not to give large rewards for simple tasks--if you do, you will not have any large rewards for large tasks. And, last, but not least, do everything in your power to avoid punishments. There is no such thing as a negative reward. But, contrary to what you would think is common sense, punishment tends to reinforce bad behaviors.
Classroom Tip #12--When Is Praise Effective?
The best praise is spontaneous. A simple
Classroom Tip #13--The Principle of Progressive Alteration
Somewhere in my past, one of my ancestors must have been a tailor, because I think that the rule that I call "The Principle of Progressive Alteration" is very important, and we learn it best by buying clothing for children. When you buy a new suit or dress for your child, you always try to make sure that it is large enough to allow for room for the child to "grow into" the garment. You can take it in a little here or there for now, and let it out a little here or there as the child grows. Curriculum should work in much the same way. The teacher who begins the year with a fourth grade class, ends the year with a fifth grade class. The students are constantly growing-in size, but also in skills. You have to make room for this growth in your curriculum. Try to be sure that some exercises are easy and some force the student, to reach for new skills. This balancing of exercises allows for growth without excessive strain. Fortunately, The New Siddur Program already knows that this is true, and the exercises vary in difficulty for this reason. Try to make sure that you assign simpler tasks to the class at the beginning of the year than you are assigning at the end of the year. Remember to constantly challenge the students without making them insecure.
Classroom Tip #14--Ask What Motivates Your Students
The people who know most about what they want are the students themselves. It never hurts to ask them what "turns them on." At the beginning of the year, or in the middle of it if you have not done so already, pass out an index card with a series of questions that ask about the students' lives. Like this:
1. The best movie I've seen recently is_____________________________