Category Archives: Discipline

Get Them Out of Their Seats

If you have ever had a class where everyone seemed like they had ADD, you know that movement during a lesson is critical in order to keep the students’ attention on the lesson. Plus, movement can help eliminate discipline problems as well. In an ideal lesson I have three distinct parts, so we shift focus and possibly location in the room at least three times in a period.

While studying a novel, I like to have the students analyze themes, especially prior to writing any extended timed write or the like. Here’s an easy lesson I like using the Carousel Brainstorming strategy.

  1. I bring 7-8 sheets of butcher paper with a theme from the novel/play listed at the top of each sheet.
  2. Next, I break the students into groups of 3-4 (depending on the attendance that day).
  3. Then I have each group stand before a theme-titled sheet.
  4. Next, I have the students choose a scribe who receives a marker (ideally, each group has a different color).
  5. Now, I provide an allotment of time for the students to come up with as many examples as possible to be recorded on the sheet.
  6. Then, once the allotted time expires, the groups move clockwise to the next theme-titled sheet.
  7. The process repeats until every group is back to the original sheet.

The sheets can be displayed in the room whenever necessary, and I really like having the students moving as well as seeing some examples prior to recording their own examples (after the first movement).

I also allow students to write questions they have on the sheets, and they may write down comments about previous answers if they so desire.

Of course, this strategy also works well with different open-ended questions on each sheet, character connections, story parallels, and so on.

Teens and Texting

Maybe you have seen the shoulders scrunched in together, the head down, the hand at the side of the thigh, or the trips to the restroom at the same time each day. I have and I know it means the dreaded text messaging occurring during class time has struck once again. I even had a student answer a text while giving her speech!

And now, according to a recent NY Times article, texting may have more negative effects than previously thought, and here’s a statistic for you:

American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

Also included in the article are the following imapcts detailing that texting can lead to:

  • anxiety,
  • distraction in school,
  • falling grades,
  • sleep deprivation, and
  • repetitive stress injury.

Dr. Martin Joffe observed students in a couple high schools and, after watching the volume of texts being sent and received,  remarked, “That’s one [text] every few minutes,” he said. “Then you hear that these kids are responding to texts late at night. That’s going to cause sleep issues in an age group that’s already plagued with sleep issues.”

Sherry Turkle at MIT noted the following:

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Psychotherapist Michael Hausauer stated that, “teenagers had a ‘terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.’ For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.”

One girl in the article discussed how she developed painful cramping in her thumbs, and another girl’s parents noticed that in one month she sent over 24,000 text messages. That’s 800 a day. That’s 33 an hour!

Now features on phones include GPS notices to tell you where the person is to whom you are speaking. We can track one another on our phones. No more lying about where you are to mom or dad or to a friend…or to your boss.

Will there be a backlash for this super-connectivity? When will it be too much?

Merit Pay or Bust

President Obama has reiterated his feeling that merit pay is needed to improve education.

At least he’s consistent.

He said the same thing when addressing the NEA when I attended the NEA-RA last summer in Washington D.C., and he has been saying he’s an advocate of merit pay for years.

I am right now not a proponent of merit pay simply because no one has shown me a system which is can be used fairly and objectively. Test scores are not a good measure, and administrator recommendations seem biased at best.

I don’t have an answer right now, and even as a “union guy” I’m open to listening to ideas. If someone comes up with a means of merit pay, which I believe is fair and avoids simple bias I could be persuaded.

My biggest beef with the notion of merit pay is that too many people hang their hats on the idea that less effective teachers can’t be eliminated from the system. To me, this is a false argument. Administrators can get rid of teachers they do not perceive as effective, but I have not met one who has taken the time to follow the steps (even when we had a blatant alcoholic skipping days and arriving under the influence). This is a major failing in education in my opinion, and I don’t understand it.

Granted, the process for firing a teacher can be long and allows teachers to improve, but isn’t this what we want? Teachers should be forced to improve. If they can’t, they should go. And merit pay isn’t going to solve this.

Today’s Heroes

We had a bit of a tangential discussion in class yesterday centering on the question “Who are today’s heroes?”

The kids did not think athletes were role models. Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Shawne Merriman, Floyd Landis, Shawn Kemp, Tim Donaghy, the 2007 Boston Marathon, NASCAR fines for cheating are up, Gary Player said golfers are doping, and horse racing is again seeing illegal substances used. Even tennis isn’t immune:

“the ATP is investigating suspicious gambling activity around Nikolay Davydenko’s Aug. 2 match with Martin Vasallo Arguello after an online British gambling company received 10 times the normal wagers on the match.”

My students also said they can’t look up to corporations or politicians. They named Enron, Balco, the partisan firings of lawyers, the banking failures, Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame, Ted Stevens, Jack Abramoff, Monica Lewinsky, and Halliburton. The kids saw the leaders of the country and its financial institutions as no better than anyone else.

Sadly, numerous students said their parents aren’t the role models they hoped for growing up either. My students were pretty open discussing how their parents over-drink, break (what they consider minor) laws, cheat on taxes, have affairs, and can’t maintain marriages.

After listening to them list all the reasons why these people could not be role models, they were hard-pressed to choose another group to whom they could look for guidance. The only groups the kids felt really comfortable mentioning as role models were local church leaders (even then with some reservations) and teachers (with some concerns here too).

Ultimately, the students decided they had to look to individuals to be role models; groups had too many variables and outliers.

If you had to pick a group to be role models for students, who would the group be? Is it possible to look to a group?

It’s amazing what kinds of discussions can come out of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.


Update (3/1): Check out this article about the impact a role model can have.

Student Journalism + Sex = Censorship

Student Journalism + Sex = Censorship. The formula holds true once again. Student journalists bring to light the relaxed morality of some students, and administrators want to restrict the free speech rights of the young. Despite the important information presented by the students, censorship rears its ugly head once more.

The Statesman, a Stevenson High School national award winning student newspaper, published a story about the “changing nature of dating encounters, explored the role of teen drinking and sex games, [and] explained chemical reactions in the brains of males vs. females” according to a Chicago Tribune article. Now a new policy has been created: “Starting with the next edition, the communication arts program director will review the stories after they’ve been approved by journalism adviser Barbara Thill.”

This reminds me of the story of the Jagwire here in my state of Washington. Apparently, when student journalists write stories about sex, district officials think censorship. However, parents are another matter entirely in the case of The Statesman:

The flap over the most recent Statesman drew a crowd of parents at last week’s school board meeting, but they weren’t there to complain about whether teen sex is newsworthy or whether the students had overstated things. They were worried about censorship…”I’m fully in support of any issue that gets the kids talking,” one parent said. Another suggested school officials “don’t want to look at what’s really going on in there.”

The parents understand the value of the student-journalism program, but the district leaders don’t agree and their votes tend to be the only ones that count. Seems as though the kids are on to something the adults don’t necessarily want to face.

I admit that lines can be crossed if students aren’t advised properly, but (again) this does not appear to be the case. The students presented a full spectrum of viewpoints and moved into the scientific realm. One commenter on the article, when refuting another commenter, stated that the notion “that the article itself was based on one student is blatantly wrong, there are multiple sources in BOLD. Also, the article was part of a package, which included other sources and viewpoints, including those of professional psychologists. There was ample research involved.”

The article’s author said this about the school district’s officials: “This isn’t about censorship, they insist. But there’s no other word for it.”

The Peanut Butter Bandit Is Charged!

The peanut butter bandit in the small Cascade Mountain town of Wenatchee just received four days in jail. Here’s the story:

A former Wenatchee High School student will spend four days in jail for smearing peanut butter on the forehead of a fellow student who he knew was allergic to peanuts.

Joshua Hickson, 19, of Malaga, was convicted of simple assault Tuesday in Chelan County District Court.

“What were you thinking when you did this?” Judge Nancy Harmon asked Hickson before sentencing.

He did not answer, only grinning and shaking his head. Harmon pressed, several times questioning Hickson about his motivation. He did not answer.

“Well, why did you do this?” she said again, asking Hickson if he was trying to be funny, or if he wanted to watch the victim die.

Hickson then answered that he didn’t know about peanut allergies.

“I’ll accept the fact that maybe you didn’t know,” Harmon said.

Hickson had entered an Alford plea, meaning he maintained his innocence but conceded that a jury would likely convict him at trial because of the weight of the evidence. The outcome resulted from a deal between the defense and prosecution. Both sides recommended a four-day sentence.

During lunch at Wenatchee High School on Sept. 8, Hickson heard a conversation in which it was mentioned that a student sitting near him was allergic to peanuts.

Hickson then grabbed someone’s peanut butter sandwich, put his fingers in the peanut butter and wiped it on the boy’s forehead, according to a Wenatchee Police report.

The boy did not suffer an allergic reaction.

“The incident turned out to be fairly innocuous but could have been fatal,” Wenatchee Police Officer Steve Evitt wrote in the report. The victim told police he had suffered a severe reaction to peanuts in the past.

In court Tuesday, Hickson denied touching the boy. But several witnesses told police he did.

“He understands what he did was wrong,” said Lee O’Brien, Hickson’s lawyer. Before sentencing, O’Brien called the four-day jail sentence “severe,” saying that such school-place incidents are common and routinely handled by administrators. In this case, WHS officials sought the charge, according to the police report. The victim’s family did not.

Harmon said she honored the four-day jail sentence recommendation in part because a recent mental health evaluation concluded that Hickson suffers some cognitive deficiencies.

“Had it not been for that, the court would have punished you severely,” Harmon said. She could have imposed a jail sentence of up to one year.

Standards-Based Grading Presentation on Monday

I have to present on Monday to my department the information I learned from a workshop on standards-based grading two months ago, and the presenter used the following works to base his presentation, of which I have read only three:

  • A Repair Kit for Grading by Ken O’Connor,
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck,
  • Transforming Classroom Grading by Robert Marzano,
  • Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work by Robert Marzano, and
  • Classroom Assessment For Student Learning by Richard Stiggins, et al.

Based on his research the presenter provided a number of points about how standards-based grading works, and these are the primary points I noted on my tablet as we discussed this new type of grading.

1. Student behaviors (effort, attendance, etc.) should not be a part of a student’s grades.

2. Late work does not result in a lower grade.

3. Extra credit should not be part of a student’s grade.

4. Academic dishonesty should not result in a lower grade.

5. Attendance should not be a part of a student’s grade.

6. Group scores should not be factored into individual grades.

7. Performance standards must be clear.

8. Grades should not be based on the mean.

9. Zeroes should not be factored into grades.

10. Homework should not be part of a student’s grade.

11. Grades should be based on more recent evidence.

How do you feel about these eleven points?


Previously I have blogged about my feelings on grading, and I’m still slowly molding my grading system, but it’s definitely moving towards standards-based grading. Here are some posts of mine on this topic and grading papers:

1. Standards-Based Grading

2. Standards-Based Grading (cont.) (featuring Jim Van Pelt, an excellent blogger)

3. Excused vs. Unexcused

4. Changing Grading May Change Failure Rates

5. The Rule of 24 and Anchor Papers