Sunday, February 22, 2015

Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses That Can Help Student Engagement

Dear all,

I hope that you have all had a relaxing vacation. 

This week's food for thought applies to our mission and engaging students and our prevailing pedagogy of inquiry and constructivism. As the final paragraph states," Many of us get so excited about sharing our own thoughts and ideas that we tend to interrupt students, leaving no space in the discussion for students to process information and respond thoughtfully." By using wait time and pauses we will allow all our students to become more engaged and empowered with the process of learning. As teachers we all need to move away from the quick fire question and answer technique that characterized our own educational experience. When employed effectively, and consistently, I have observed that wait time encourages a greater depth of thinking and a more enduring understanding of process, concepts and content.

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Wealthy New Lunar Year,


The excerpt below is from the book “Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom,” by Patricia A. Jennings. This section is from the chapter entitled “Orchestrating Classroom Dynamics.”
Mindful Wait Time
One way to promote engagement and learning is to consciously create pauses throughout the day. We can create a sense of spaciousness in our classroom by slowing down the pace of our speech and punctuating our lessons with silence. Introduced well, this practice can improve classroom discourse.
The speed at which we can process information varies from person to person (Droit-Volet, Meck, & Penney, 2007). Some people process auditory information very quickly, while others tend to have more visual or sensorimotor strengths. In any case, when we have more time to process information, the quality of our thinking and learning improves. Younger children require more time to process than do older children, and adults often forget this as they zoom through content as if they were speaking to other adults. No matter what their ages, when we give our students just a little more time to process information, they learn better.
When I introduce this idea to teachers, I often hear concerns that they will be wasting valuable time doing nothing. It’s important to recognize that during the pauses, you and your students are not “doing nothing.” Your students may be considering several alternatives; they may be mulling a picture over in their mind; they may be making associations, comparisons, and contrasts. They may be trying to drudge up the right word from their vocabulary. When we give them this time, their processing becomes richer, deeper, and more abstract. When you rush through a lesson, you may deliver content more quickly and efficiently, but your students may not absorb the content very well, if at all.

We can use the time to tune in to ourselves and our students. We can ask ourselves, “How am I feeling right now? How are the students feeling? What’s happening right now? What do my students need? How can I explain this better?” By taking mindful pauses, we are modeling mindful behavior for our students and letting us all have some time to process the information we are exploring together.
The added bonus of these pause punctuations is that they give us as teachers a few moments to practice mindfulness. When this becomes an intentional part of our lessons, we can take the time to notice our body in space, the whole classroom, each student, and the small details that surrounds us, in the present moment. We give ourselves a short break—a micro-vacation from the constant activity of a busy classroom.
Typically we pause after we ask a question and before we call on someone to answer. Most of the time, this pause is only about one second long. Students who process information quickly are at an advantage under these conditions. They tend to be the ones who always raise their hands immediately. While the speedy students are answering the question, the slower students are still trying to process the question, so they may not hear and comprehend the answer or be able to assimilate it into their existing knowledge. If the quick pace of the session continues, some students may feel left behind.
However, educational researchers have discovered that if the pause between the teacher’s question and the student’s answer lasts between three and five seconds, significant changes occur in student behavior (Rowe, 1987). Students are more likely to respond appropriately to the questions, answer the questions correctly, and offer longer and more complex answers. There are fewer “I don’t know” or non-answer responses. Over time, many more students show higher levels of engagement (Honea, 1982; Swift & Gooding, 1983) and achievement test scores and school retention levels increase (Tobin & Capie, 1982).
Wait time has a positive effect on teachers as well. With conscious use of wait time, teachers’ questioning strategies become more varied and flexible, and they ask follow-up questions that require more complex information processing and higher-order thinking (Casteel & Stahl, 1973; Rowe, 1972; Stahl, 1990; Tobin, 1987).
Robert Stahl (1990) identified eight categories of wait time. When we formally introduce wait time, these periods of silence are trans- formed from periods of awkwardness into valuable moments of silence. The first category is the type of wait time we’ve already discussed: the time between a teacher’s question and the student’s answer. The other seven are as follows:
Within-student’s-response pause time. This is a three-second or longer pause that occurs when a student pauses or hesitates during the process of delivering a response to a teacher’s question. Teachers tend to interrupt students when they are thinking through their answers and take time to pause. However, when given the time, students often follow these periods of silence by successfully completing their responses.
Post-student’s-response wait time. This is a pause after a student has finished a response and other students are considering adding comments or reactions. This gives the other students time to think about what was said and to decide if they have anything to add.
Student pause time. This is a pause after a student has initiated a question, statement, or comment but doesn’t complete the thought. It may seem strange to formalize this type of pause, but this situation arises more often than we might realize because the tendency is to ignore the question rather than allow for a pause. This happens to me a lot. I have a thought, idea, or question. I’m getting ready to tell someone, and my mind goes blank. I can’t remember what I was going to say. When this happens to one of our students, we can give ourselves and the student a little time to recover, rather than just letting it drop.
Teacher pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates to consider what is happening, appraise the situation, and consider the best course of action. A particularly beneficial time for a teacher to pause is when a student has asked a question and the answer requires a complex answer. Taking time to consider how to frame the answer can improve student learning.
Within-teacher-presentation pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates during lecture presentations or other extended periods of content output. The teacher intentionally stops the flow of information to give students three to five seconds of silence to absorb the information and to consolidate their thinking. This type of pause requires no response from the students; it’s simply processing time. Using silence this way, teachers can chunk their content into bite-sized pieces to help students absorb and process the information better.
Student task completion work time. This is pause time intended to allow students to complete an academic task that demands undivided attention. The length of the pause should be related to the time it takes to complete a task. The challenge involved in this type of pause is how to handle the variation in completion time among students. If students learn the value of pausing and some of them finish early, they can use the time to extend their thinking about the subject in some way.
Impact pause time. This is the use of pause time to create impact or drama. When we pause, we can create a mood of anticipation. A dramatic pause can generate feelings of suspense and expectation.
Wait time can be challenging. Many of us get so excited about sharing our own thoughts and ideas that we tend to interrupt students, leaving no space in the discussion for students to process information and respond thoughtfully. In the skill-building practices at the end of this chapter, you will learn more about how to apply wait time in your classroom.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I know that it has been a busy week and that you are all now looking forward to a break. However, the vacation does provide an opportunity to give yourself time away from normal preparation and students to think about your own growth as an individual and as a professional.

Kim talked about 12 things that will transform education. This Food for Thought links to this through MOOC’s. As was commented in the session this morning, if anyone can learn anything through MOOC’s then what is our role in the future as teachers?

Here are some fantastic opportunities for developing your learning in relation to our school mission and vision, that I have been forwarded by Chad from a school in China. Members of Positive Education committee should certainly think about broadening their perspectives by looking at the Coursera course below and the previous one on the Science of Happiness, which I know several of our staff already completed.

For those wanting to learn more about positive psychology, Barbara Fredrickson is offering a free course on Coursera that began this week:

In six weeks, you will become well immersed in her ground breaking research around positive emotions:
Week 1: Positive Emotions: The Tiny Engines of Positive Psychology. Look “under the hood” to discover the powerful drivers of growth, well-being, and health.
Week 2: The Mindscapes and Outcomes of Positivity. Discover the roots of flexibility, creativity, and resilience.
Week 3: The Delicate Art of Pursuing Happiness. Discover the ratios and priorities that best promote flourishing and learn common pitfalls to avoid.
Week 4: Positivity Resonance and Loving-Kindness. Unveil the force of co-experienced positive emotions and practice this lab-tested meditation honed over millennia.
Week 5: The Fruits of Positivity Resonance. Learn to spot the health benefits that loving-kindness uniquely nourishes.
Week 6: The Ripples of Positivity Resonance. Far beyond you and your happiness, positive psychology radiates out to benefit your relationships and community.
If you missed the Science of Happiness Course that happened in the fall, all the materials are available for a self paced course:

For those working with our younger students, here is a course just for you:
Positive Behavior Support for Young Children

If you are still struggling with Mindfulness because you aren’t doing it yourself, here is a connection to a blog post that will give you the basic introduction material that you could think about over Tet
Starting on your own Mindfulness path
And if you haven’t got it going with your students properly here you will find material for re- Introducing Mindfulness with students. 

Looking for a jump start?
Try the 7 Day Challenge by Smiling Mind starting next week:

Wishing you all a safe, relaxing and enjoyable Vietnamese New Year,
Have a good vacation,

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Food for Thought: Something for Everyone.

Dear all,

It’s been an up and down 10 days. Starting with the death of Paul, through the DOET visit to the fun Primary school production. An important learning for these 10 days has been that life continues no matter how we are challenged. In this week’s Food for Thought I have broken my promise to keep it short and focused. Why have I done that? The answer is simple, so many things came my way these last 10 days that I thought I’d share and you can take your pick as to what you want to read. I think there is something for everyone to think about:

  • Getting to know more about Paul Ginnis
  • Our brain and the modern world
  • Joy in Schools
  • Dangers of going 100% Google
  • Homework and learning

If you want to read all of the posts as separate articles, videos etc downloaded then follow this link to another of my blogs that is just 4U

    1. 1.  The first link is for those of you who would like to have known more about Paul, his interests and his passions.

2.  This article builds on other articles that I have shared about slowing down and the dangers of multi-tasking

Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.
Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.”

This Daniel Goleman short 2 minute video further emphasizes the points being made about how we need to focus our brain even if we are to feel compassion for others.

3. This article builds on why happiness and joy should be an important part of our school development plan.
Joy: A Subject Schools Lack
.”Before you brush this argument aside as sentimental fluff, or think of joy as an unaffordable luxury in a nation where there is dire poverty, low academic achievement, and high dropout rates, think again. The more dire the school circumstances, the more important pleasure is to achieving any educational success.
Many of the assignments and rules teachers come up with, often because they are pressured by their administrators, treat pleasure and joy as the enemies of competence and responsibility. The assumption is that children shouldn’t chat in the classroom because it disrupts hard work; instead, they should learn to delay gratification so that they can pursue abstract goals, like going to college. They should keep their hands to themselves and tolerate boredom so that they become good at being bored later on.
Not only is this a dreary and awful way to treat children, it makes no sense educationally. Decades of research have shown that in order to acquire skills and real knowledge in school, kids need to want to learn. You can force a child to stay in his or her seat, fill out a worksheet, or practice division. But you can’t force a person to think carefully, enjoy books, digest complex information, or develop a taste for learning. To make that happen, you have to help the child find pleasure in learning—to see school as a source of joy.”

4. This article is very relevant with the spread of Google influence in our school and our visit this week of Kim Cofino and our focus on technology.


What Do Schools Risk By Going ‘Full Google’?

“A familiar charge is that the paperless classroom creates a digital divide. At schools like Woodlake, Morgan says, “we’re not at the point where every student has a device and Wi-Fi at home.” She had to print out some assignments for students, or else cut back on homework — not exactly what was promised.
Another big concern is commercialization and student privacy. As Yeskel has mentioned in other interviews, Google’s business motive here is to expose young users to the Google brand. To hook them early.
Khaliah Barnes, director of the Student Privacy Project of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), warns, “When you’re using free services, if you don’t know what the product is, you are the product.”
In March, as part of a federal lawsuit, Google admitted it had been data-mining student email messages to potentially improve its targeted advertising, among other reasons. As of late April, says Yeskel, “We no longer show any ads to students or use any information in any other Google products. We take ownership of any user data extremely seriously.”
Still, users of Google Apps for Education are subject to Google’s terms of service, which is subject to change.
The need to decipher service agreements to protect student privacy is a big responsibility for teachers. And that’s part of a larger dilemma as schools go digital — teachers and districts are being asked to make significant decisions about, and investments in, technology use without much help.
“The thing about Google is they’re a technology company, not really a solution company,” says Phil Hill, an educational technology consultant and market analyst. “Rather than understand needs and build a holistic solution, Google has the ability to throw stuff out and see what happens.” “

5. Finally, the ultimate challenge in Asian International Schools to get students and parents to care more about what they are learning and the processes involved  of than the grade they are given for their homework/ assessment tasks.
Alfie Kohn: No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning
In a thought-provoking presentation, Alfie Kohn makes a compelling case that two traditional features of schooling -- grades and homework -- are not only unnecessary but actually undermine students’ interest in learning.
Research consistently finds that giving students letter or number grades leads them to think less deeply, avoid challenging tasks, and become less enthusiastic about whatever they’re learning – and that’s true for those who get A’s as well as D’s. Similarly, making children work what amounts to a second shift after having spent all day in school not only proves frustrating but also turns learning into a chore. Surprisingly, claims that homework enhances understanding or promotes better work habits are contradicted by both research and experience.
Rather than trying to tweak the details of how students are graded, or how much (or even what kind of) homework they’re assigned, Kohn argues that we need to ask whether the practices themselves really make sense.
Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on education, parenting, and human behavior. His 11 books include PUNISHED BY REWARDS (1993), THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE (1999), and THE HOMEWORK MYTH (2006). Time magazine has described him as "perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores."

Enjoy your Sunday



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sad Food for Thought


Dear all,

I’m very sorry to have to share some terrible news with you all. Last night I received an email from Sharon informing me that Paul had died and therefore they would not be joining us after Tet. Obviously this is very sad news for us all at ISHCMC as Paul was more than just a normal educational consultant he had become a friend of ISHCMC. He was someone special who made connections with people and institutions. His positive, passionate and enthusiastic personality made him an exciting person to be linked with as a school. His commitment to learning and helping schools grow their pedagogy made him part of our community. Paul will remain with us at ISHCMC as his beliefs are in so many ways enshrined in our school mission. The workshops that he delivered at ISHCMC epitomized the words energized, engaged and empowered; both in delivery and the resultant effect upon us as an audience. He should always be in our minds when we read the word “construct,” as he was our inspiration for transforming our pedagogy.

Hence this week’s food for thought is to take a minute to reflect upon how Paul influenced and helped you in your approach to teaching and by capturing these positive feelings send our condolences to Sharon and his family.

Last night I did send sympathies to Sharon but thought that if any of you would like to share your thoughts then I will compile and send as one email to thank her and Paul for the connection they made with us at ISHCMC.

Wishing you all a good Sunday,