Introduction by Tyler Wood

One of my more memorable years in elementary school was 5th grade, Mr. Feuling's class. Try and remember your favorite teacher as a child. Do you remember the basics they taught you? I remember laughing a lot in his class. I remember inside jokes and being active in class. I remember getting my hands on things and discovering. What we remember of great teachers is not what specific skills they taught us, but how they inspired us to learn on our own or be a better person. It was a class I wanted to be in. It was a class I was pushed to achieve and welcomed challenges in. That is the very essence of good teaching, someone who can help you help yourself. Someone you have made a connection with that believes in you.

Every day teachers set foot in a classroom is a chance to inspire a child. Each day should be a new opportunity to try and make a difference. This may sound cliche, but consider this, that teacher that inspired you, was it one single day they did that? Do you think they woke up one day and said, "Today's the day I inspire kids, then tomorrow I'll be boring again." They didn't inspire you in a single day, it was each and everyday of trying that was building that idea. Each decision they made helped propel you forward as a learner and a person. They capitalized on the time they had. They connected to you as a person.

This section is about The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day by Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell. This book is a guide to helping teachers make the most of each day. Through research rationale, this book is taking a closer look at what works and how teachers can utilize it each day. You can join me as we venture through the book and get tips, inspiration, or reminded of what we can do as educators to keep the class moving forward and growing everyday. Stay focused. Get inspired!


References

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from  

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

Be Demanding - Touchstones 1-4 by Tyler Wood

Item 1 - I use standards to guide every learning opportunity

How do you know you are getting closer to your destination on your road trip? We have a roadmap. The Common Core Standards are the roadmap that help teachers align their curriculum with other grade levels so the students have a framework to their learning. This allows a second grade teacher to know what their students learned in first grade and also what they should be ready to learn in third grade. Click the button below to find the standards in your state.

Standards are not teaching to the test, but a backbone with which to frame your lessons so each student will achieve. Being able to offer equal opportunity for every student means we must know in advance what we will be teaching. It doesn't mean we should skip teachable moments in the class, but to offer goals to shoot for. One of the best ways that "low-performing schools nationwide have dramatically improved their performance is by getting their curriculum in order - clearly defining what students should be learning at every grade level and ensuring that it gets taught in every classroom, Chenoweth (as quoted by Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Demanding: Item 1", para 7). 

Item 2 - I ensure students set personal learning objectives for each lesson

Once we have our map we need to have a destination. This can come in two parts on a long road trip:

1. We have a final destination (long-term learning goals). This gives motivation to reach for something. It gives teachers and students an idea of where they will need to be in the distance and what they want to get out of learning. This long-term goal can feel daunting, however, so that leads us to the second part.

2. We set a goal for a single days drive, where will we sleep tonight (short-term learning objectives). When there are no clear objectives for students they may feel lost and start to 'check-out'. However, when a student can focus "efforts on manageable pieces that generate quick wins" it "provides the motivation to take on ever greater challenges" (Goodwin & Hubbell, Be Demanding: Item 2", para 5). As Lao Tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." If we can maintain our focus on those little pieces we will have the confidence to continue achieving and learn that effort is where success comes from and not 'luck'. Students learn that they have the ability to change - they are not innately 'bad at this', but they can work at it and get better. Click the button below for more information on setting learning objectives.

Item 3 - I peel back the curtain and make my performance expectations clear

What if, on your roadmap, there were blacked out areas or "unmapped" parts on your journey? Would you be an adventurer and go through those areas, be tentative and maybe get lost, or avoid them all together? Students that aren't told expectations are looking at a roadmap with blacked out areas. Teachers should not make their scores and expectations hidden treasures, but they should be at the forefront of the classroom psyche. 

One easy way to do this is provide rubrics in advance for students so they can see what is expected of them on each assignment. "What researchers [found] was that by making teachers' expectations for learning explicit, rubrics help students better assess themselves, become more receptive to feedback, and feel more motivated to learn. (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Demanding: Item 3, para 15). Click the button below for a deeper idea of how to use rubrics and what kind works best.

Item 4 - I measure understanding against high expectations

As we use our map to get to our destination, how would we know if that is a map to be trusted? Our roadmap shouldn't just feel good in our hands, fit in our pocket conveniently, or be celebrity endorsed, it should actually get us to our destination. What is the telos of learning? Do we learn in order to get good grades or is there something more important? There are two main focuses for our education system; university and/or job. 

Giving As for effort isn't challenging students. Learning isn't just about getting the highest score, it is about giving the students their own tools to grow and learn. Teaching students how to think critically and connect the learning to their lives is the goal. Giving out homework that is just busy work and doesn't connect is a missed opportunity to continue the learning for the child. Each homework assignment is practice with a concept. 

If we design our lessons with standards in mind and build on them so they are challenging, the students will respond to it in ways that might have been thought too hard or even impossible before. See how Brian Crosby uses core standards, high expectations, and student activity to motivate his students with great results.


References

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2013). Common Core Standards.

      Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/

 

Focus on Effectiveness. (2005). Setting objectives. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

      Retrieved from  website: http://www.netc.org/focus/strategies/sett.php

 

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from  

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

 

Mueller, J. (2013). Mueller’s glossary of authentic assessment terms.

     Retrieved from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/glossary.htm#holistic. 

 

 

Be Supportive - Touchstones 5-8 by Tyler Wood

Item 5 - I engage student interest with every lesson

Higher expectations are great but without the students being engaged with the material it is asking too much, or students might feel it's asking too much. A "high school in Washington D.C. enrolled all its students in AP courses, its pass rate was a dismal 2 percent" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 5, para 2). Having the expectations alone doesn't translate into success. 

Another study by "Ronald Fryer Jr., a researcher at Harvard University, offered 18,000 students in four cities a total of $6.3 million in rewards to show up to school, behave better, or get better grades" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 5, para 5) but had no effects. It was speculated that it didn't improve performance because the students didn't know what the "better" meant or how to get there. 

Many people will tell you ways to engage students, but it doesn't have to be standing on desks, a la Dead Poets Society. It can be simple things like asking an engaging question that hangs over the class all lesson, mixing desks up, or even pacing. Offering the students choices is another way to pique their interest because it can become more interactive. 

The essential idea is the 'why'. What is a child's favorite question? Why, of course. Let's not force them somewhere else, let's take the learning to their interests. Asking essential questions about the 'why' or 'how' is building their critical thinking skills and engaging them with the topic at hand. Click the button below for more information on essential questions.

 

Item 6 - I interact meaningfully with every student

Several surveys (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010, and Quaglia Institute, 2011) found that one of the contributing factors to student boredom in class is lack of teacher interaction (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 3). As Rita Pierson stated in the video in my introduction, "every child needs a champion" that will be supportive in school. Not just a few of your favorite students, but all of the students. Many students have parents or other family members who are champions for them, but some, unfortunately, do not. School should be a place of acceptance and growth.  

Research shows that students that feel connected to at least one teacher in school have much better success in the long-term. Knowing that is important, but what do we do about it?

 - It can be as simple as saying 'hello' every morning as the children come into the class. The students knowing that you are seeing them as people is important.

 - Ask everyone questions, not just the students that always raise their hands. It may be uncomfortable for some students at first, but it sends the message that you want to hear their ideas and views and encourages them to engage with each other and be a part of class. 

 - Smile. Seems obvious, but these subtle non-verbal cues can have an impact on students morale in class. Click the button below for more about the unspoken language we speak to our students everyday.

 - Learn names quickly. Students want you to know their names because they want to feel like you care. We tend to feel good when someone remembers our name, especially a person we didn't think ever knew it. That feeling can occur with students if you are quick enough with learning their names. 

- Let your guard down. I like to go 'off topic' now and again to let the kids get to know me and so I can get to know them more - "not every waking moment in the classroom must be dedicated to learning" (Goodwin and Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 31). Having some personal time helps build that relationship with the students that helps their learning success in the future.

 - Don't be so serious. How many people that thought of their favorite teacher thought of a teacher that was always serious? Be honest. Probably not many, or dare I say, zero of you. Serious can be useful, but not all the time. Make a joke, let the kids have some fun, learning can be fun, if you let it be. 

Click the link below for more information on how to establish a positive classroom climate.

 

Item 7 - I use feedback to encourage effort

Students are bored in school. Is that a surprising statement? If it is, you must have gone to an amazing school. Sure we had our great teachers, but that wasn't every teacher all the time. And even our great teachers might not have been great to a classmate of ours. So what is going on here? Why are students bored? "The top two reasons they cite for being bored are that classroom material is uninteresting (82 percent) and that it is not personally relevant to them (41 percent), Yazzie-Mintz" (as quoted by Goodwin &Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 2).

One way that is really interesting for solving this problem is "flipping" a classroom. The Khan Academy has been working with teachers in California to try this method and it seems like it has been working wonderfully. The video makes many good points about how technology can actually help with feedback and also help get more teacher time with each student.

I have also been engaging in the idea of gamification in my classroom with rewards and points. It is, basically, an updated sticker board that utilizes the research video games have done for us about rewards, feedback, and keeping someone engaged. If you can't beat'em join'em.  

 

Item 8 - I create an oasis of safety and respect in my classroom

If there is an elephant in the room, it doesn't matter how great of a teacher you are or how interesting your classes are, kids will be distracted. One disruptive child, or even worse, bully, can bring a whole class off it's focus. Having well thought out classroom management can be a life-saver in a classroom. Any current or former teacher will probably attest, that is the one skill many people struggle with the most when they start teaching. 

What I have found in my classes is that children respond to consistency and fairness. This may seem obvious, but it is something to really sit down and figure out for a classroom. Having set rules for behavior, especially behavior you involve students in creating, will go a long way with letting the class settle in and focus. 

Using positive language is helpful in encouraging good behavior, rather than discouraging bad. And to go along with that, rewarding those doing a good job, not just punishing those that don't. Keep consistent and, over time, the kids will be able to police themselves. By the end of my last year, I rarely had to give any negative feedback because I encouraged the children to help each other be good behavior monitors for each other. They went from telling on each other for minor things, to setting good examples and helping each other stay on-task. 

Don't let small things escalate to bigger things. We can uproot an oak tree with our bare hands if we pull it up when it's a seedling. Click the button below for techniques on how to deal with bullying. Every school should be safe for students to learn.

It also helps to not connect their personality to the behavior, let the children know that it's the behavior that is the problem, not them. On the flip side, don't take the students outburst as a personal affront to you, the teacher. Usually, "student misbehavior...has nothing to do with us as individuals. Rather, it reflects other motives, such as resisting authority, shirking responsibility, or seeking attention" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 8", para 41).


References

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from 

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

 

National Center on Time & Learning. (2014, March). Why Time Matters.

    Retrieved from http://timeandlearning.org/why-time-matters

 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2014). Respond to Bullying.

    Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/respond/index.html

 

Wiggins, G. (2007). What is an Essential Question? Big Ideas: An Authentic Education e-Journal,

    1. Retrieved from https://www.authenticeducation.org/ae_bigideas/article.lasso?artid=53

Be Intentional - Touchstones 9-12 by Tyler Wood

Item 9 - I make the most of every minute

Between the announcements, students coming in late or still finding their seats, to attendance and passing out papers or transitions and opening books, everyday can be busy with time that isn't used for learning. Sometimes it seems that time slips away during a class. When you thought you had enough time for an assignment, the bell is already ringing. Time management is crucial as a teacher. Time is an unalterable factor in class. Even block schedules don't necessarily fix this problem. What can we do?

One thing is to be aware of time. Do a time audit in class and see what you are spending your time on and how you can change it. A good place to start is by beginning before you enter the room. Account for every minute of the class when planning (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 9, para 18). Planning for every minute doesn't mean you must keep to that schedule and skip over a teachable moment that arises, it simply means you are prepared for teaching from bell to bell and you have thought about your time and using it wisely. 

As the Khan Academy video pointed out, flipping the classroom embeds learning outside the time alloted for teaching and can help ease the time constraints, as well. 

Another idea is to provide activity stations, so the materials stay in one place and the students move, minimizing time to get out materials or change materials. 

When we start considering time, we are already on the path to better time management. You can even let the kids help you by having them engage in time auditing and seeing how much time they are learning in a class to get them more responsible for their own time management. click the button below for more about why time matters in school.

Item 10 - I help students develop deep knowledge

One way of losing time is after the students have been taught. Forgetting what was taught means we have to spend extra time reviewing items students learned previously. "Studies have found that students often forget about half of what they "learned" when tested on the same content weeks, months, or even years later, Semb & Ellis, 1994 (as quoted by Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 10, para 3). 

Using the Six Essential C's we can help students deepen the knowledge and make it last longer. As the childhood comeback states, "take a picture, it will last longer." Indeed it will, and we need to give our students a picture of the learning, not just abstract ideas floating around and hoping they will seed, like pollen on a windy spring day. 

 - Curiosity. Keep the kids interested. We learn a lot better when we are interested in the topic. Ask anyone about their favorite things and see that idea in action.

 - Connection. Synapse is how we maintain knowledge in our brains, so making as many connections from a piece of information and previously held knowledge strengthens that knowledge.

 - Coherence. We naturally want to organize things, so don't fight that, help students make those connections to larger themes. Help them organize the knowledge.

 - Concentration. Spending all day focused on one thing can become exhausting, to help with concentration try and let students have a brain break. A siesta for processing information and internalizing it, then they will be more apt to concentrate on the next thing.

 - Coaching. Every Olympic champion had a coach, why not your students? We want students to learn how to do things on their own, but they still need guidance. Coaching them helps make it not about them versus you, but you helping them accomplish something you will both be proud of. 

 - Context. This is a commonly understood idea, using the knowledge helps you solidify it in your brain. We used to have to think to ride a bike when we first started, but now we can do it without a second thought. That can be done with any knowledge. You are doing it right now while reading this. You used to have to think to read words and sentences, but now you can read this as smoothly as I might have said it to you without thinking too hard. 

Using Goodwin & Hubbell's C's will help you be intentional with every step of the classroom lesson.

Item 11 - I coach students to mastery

The difference between an elite athlete and a good athlete is what they work on to get better. Elite athletes' coaches get them to focus on their weaknesses, they "practice [those] aspects of their performance that have the most room for improvement," Ericsson, Roring, & Nandagopal, 2007 (as quoted by Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Intentional: Item 11, para 4). 

Use techniques that make all the students understand the content before moving on. For example, students can do matching activities where each student will have to learn about one aspect of a topic and explain it to the group, but all the members must know all the aspects at the end of the exercise. This will engage every student, not just one who takes over control of the group, to master the knowledge and be able to explain and reiterate the lesson. 

Use assessments (e.g. quizzes, writing, in-class questions, writing questions on dry-erase boards, or 'thumbs up if you get it') to see how the students are getting on with the knowledge and review those ideas that are missing their mark. Click on the button below for more information on how homework can be used in a classroom for practice to mastery.

Not every child learns the same way, so make sure to offer many ideas for retrieving the knowledge to encourage students to think critically and to make sure all the students are being engaged with each learning style. 

Item 12 - I help students do something with their knowledge

As mentioned before, learning is leading to an end goal, usually some sort of real-world application. If students aren't seeing that relevance, they might not remain focused, stay engaged, or remember the skills. 

Help the students use the skills taught in class in real-world settings so they can take the knowledge out of the classroom and use it on their own. That is the whole point. At some point we want the students to ride the bike without us holding the seat. Give them the opportunity to engage with the world. 

In order to really help a student extend their learning a teacher should really focus on teaching how to learn, rather than facts and figures. There are many ways to do that. One such way is projects. Even though the research seems seemingly unconvinced completely on the subject, I have found it to be a real help in engaging the students in learning outside the classroom and inducing them into finding their own methods of problem solving. As stated, 'the point here is that one way to avoid project assignments that are "doing for the sake of doing" is to know, from the beginning, what knowledge and skills you expect students to have and what you want them to do with that knowledge in the project assignment' (Goodwin & Hubbell, 'Be Intentional: Item 12, para 25). I find the best way to be intentional is to make the very process of research the intent, and the content the secondary knowledge. The kids don't notice the learning focus and it gives the teacher the freedom to adjust the content for any class, age, subject, etc... For example, I gave my kindergarteners an assignment to help the class build the solar system. I gave them each a piece (planets or other bodies) to find information on, then they taught the class about it in a show & tell. The project came out great, but what my intention was was to teach the kids how to use a resource to find information, decide what was important, then share what they learned, in a word - research. The content could have been anything, it just so happened to be the universe theme month and the kids loved that. I wanted to use the subject they liked best so they would be more interested in finding the information on their own.

Another way that has really helped me was mimicking. This is how I learned to in-line skate. When I was a skater, I would watch hours of video of professionals then try and copy what they did. I had an example of what I wanted to look like and that helped me. If the kids can 'mimic the...masters in order to develop their own talents' (Goodwin & Hubbell, 'Be Intentional: Item 12, para 23) that would help them develop like I did with skating. It also has the added benefit of giving them an example to guide their learning.

As is common in most classrooms, I also use discussion. One of my favorite classes in university was a philosophy of biology class, but I can't remember the professor's name. I just remember having really interesting discussions with the other students. It was a nice mix of biologists interested in the philosophy of their field and philosophers interested in the science of the ideas. In my classes, I encourage discussion for an extra reason because I teach second language speakers that need more practice with pronunciation and fluid speaking that most native speakers have less trouble with. It also helps them with the very point of the language, to communicate, which implies talking in a conversation.

One theory of how learning will benefit students for the future is Connectivism. Watch the video for more information on the subject.


References

Focus on Effectiveness. (2005). Homework and Practice . Retrieved from Northwest Regional  

     Educational Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www.netc.org/focus/strategies/home.php

 

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from 

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

 

National Center for Time & Learning. (2014). Why Time Matters.

     Retrieved from http://timeandlearning.org/why-time-matters

Final Thoughts by Tyler Wood

It all started on a whim. While backpacking through Vietnam in 2006 the suggestion of teaching rose from the aether and entered my brain. It wasn't meant to be at that time, but it kept nagging me like a parent's words in the back of your head reminding you to put two hands on the wheel while driving. A few years later I was working in a bookstore and wasn't sure where life was going for me. It hinged on a work decision. The pendulum swung me into a TESL course and on the path to teaching. 

After getting my TESL and landing a job in Seoul, Korea, I thought it would still be a temporary place in a transitioning life. The mid-level landing to some next floor. Nearly five years after my plane's tires screeched into Incheon Airport and taxied for an excessive amount of time to the gate, here I am taking my masters course to further my education.

In my limited time teaching I have picked up a few things along the way and have internalized a few lessons, but when I started reading The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching, I realized there were many things I still needed to learn. 

Timing couldn't have been better, since I was just starting at a new school and had a chance to start with a clean slate. I have since been doing my best to implement all 12 of the touchstones into my class everyday. It isn't a perfect journey, but perfection doesn't exist in our universe. Indeed if it did, we wouldn't exist at all.

The lesson I worked on for this course was a letter writing lesson. I wanted to be able to teach the students a useful writing style that many have forgotten because of the internet, but one that is still relevant on the internet , namely - email. 

When I went through the pre-assessment Venn Diagram and graphed the results of what the children already knew about letter writing, it wasn't a soaring success, but it gave me a good amount of data on what I could aim at for improvement. Figure 1.1 shows what the children wrote down on their own about their knowledge of letter writing and/or letter format. 

Figure 1.1

After going over the data and writing a rubric that might help the students with their understanding I taught the class. Spending a lot of time and making sure I followed the touchstones really opened up the lesson to places I didn't expect. For example, one of the pieces that helped the most was pre-planning the time (Item 9). I wrote out what I would be doing and the students would be doing for every minute. Even though I didn't follow the time perfectly, it really forced me to pay attention to my time management which helped smooth the transitions from discussion to writing.

The beginning of class was very smooth. I wrote out directions on the board for them to turn in their homework on my desk, then begin reading the examples I had printed of famous authors' letters. The kids were quiet and I had very little trouble getting them all settled and prepared for starting the lesson that way. From the first bell, the kids were already beginning class without much prodding on my part. 

One thing that I could have done better was my timing on announcing the homework. I waited until over the half-way mark of the class to go over the homework and I got a lot of groans. This may have been partially because this was off my usual technique of dealing with time and the students weren't prepared for it. 

My homework was intended to help students extend the learning outside the classroom (Item 12) and give it some relevance to keep them engaged (Item 5) but it turned out that not all of the students were able to use email to email me their final letter. I accepted paper work, but would let students know about the possibility of email assignments farther in advance in the future. 

Overall, the lesson went well and I was happy with it and, except for the groans on the homework announcement, the students were engaged and working from bell to bell. I updated the graph with data from after the lesson to see how they have improved. Figure 1.2 shows the knowledge utilized in the assignment they turned in to me.

Figure 1.2

I would like to do a follow up assessment to really see how well the students were able to internalize this lesson, but that will have to be an update for a later time. They need time to work it's information erasing magic.

I'm pleased with the new knowledge and tactics I have picked up from this course and text, and can't wait to continue this journey to my own mastery (Masters, anyway). I hope this can be helpful to anyone who has joined me on this venture and I will see you in the classroom!


Keep stopping by to check out any updates I will have and leave me a message if you have any comments, concerns, or questions. Stay focused. Get Inspired!



References

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from  

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012