Teaching HOW to think, not WHAT to think

With teaching experience since 1995, Midnight Star has devised many activities, both large and small, that have been extensively tweaked and improved with repeated student use.  These efforts have produced strategies and products that have consistently resulted in the highest test scores of all equivalent students across a district since common assessments began over 8 years ago.  The key to student success is to continually improve upon practices that work well.  Don’t be satisfied with good; strive for great and watch your students soar!

Topographic Maps Worksheet Close up of businesswoman's hand writing in notepad placed on desktop with other items
Listen, Repeat & Differentiate

The best way to improve upon good activities is to listen to your students.  I have found that my students teach me!  Wearing sturdy shoes in the classroom allows for constant circulation and the ability to listen to my students.  Overhearing student comments can reveal “a-ha” moments for me that lead to brand new ideas for projects and activities that will help students succeed.

Don’t be frustrated with repeating yourself!  Repeating the question, “Why are we doing this?” as I wander is of utmost importance.  This helps to keep the main thing -the main thing.  Getting side tracked is fun and can lead to making great connections, but always come back to “why are we doing this?”  Also, stress the question, “Do you get it?”  The object is NOT to complete the work, but to understand what we are doing.  “Do you really get it?”  “Feel free to ask me a question.  I will give you a good hint!”  I am upfront with telling students that I am not going to give them the answer.  We want the students to be able to problem solve on their own. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Give students the opportunity to choose.  Whenever possible, give options on the difficulty level and the creativity level of a project.  Differentiate!  Students are much more likely to become engaged in their own learning when they get to choose!

Multiple ways for students to practice

Once students have completed an assignment, give them something else that is similar in topic (on a different day).  The best way for students to improve their understanding is to practice.  Find multiple ways for students to practice.  Tell them why you are doing this; don’t keep it a secret.  Listen….. Repeat….. Differentiate!  Your students will let you know when they “get it”.

The ultimate goal is to teach students HOW to think.  I can teach them nothing, they must learn it for themselves.