How best to do peer teaching?

Why use peer teaching?

Compared to one teacher talking and a classful of students listening, peer teaching can greatly increase student engagement, and can massively increase time-on-task. Listening to a room full of students working together, practicing, and learning in pairs can be a thing of joy. If it is done right, there is nothing more effective for student learning. Research has shown that not only the student rehearsing but also his partner, the student checking the facts, learns from the process. Because all students can be fully engaged, a lot of practice can be accomplished in a short amount of time. However, sessions have to be structured carefully, and the task has to be something that lends itself to peer teaching.

What tasks lend themselves to peer teaching?

Peer teaching can’t work if neither student knows the material to be learned. You’ll have paired activities, but it won’t enhance or develop learning. Tasks that involve practice and review of previously taught material do lend themselves to peer teaching. Even better are tasks in which one student can have the answer key. You can be sure the correct answers are being learned with an answer key. Being corrected when you make an error is a key to learning, and that is not likely to happen without an answer key. The Rocket Math Worksheet Program is a good example of peer teaching. It involves paired practice of math facts, where one student practices and the other checks on an answer key.

How do you set up peer partners?

If you want to accomplish learning rather than facilitate socializing, you must set up peer partners. There is a saying, “Water seeks its own level.” This is definitely true of student pairs. Left to their own devices, the hard-working, conscientious students will pair up; unfortunately, the goof-offs will also pair up. And they won’t get anything accomplished. If you have an activity where it doesn’t matter what they accomplish, then it’s fine to let students pick their partners. But when you want them to be on-task and learning from the activity, you must set the partners.

Order your class list by focus and responsibility from top to bottom, then divide the list in half. Match the second half with the first half so that top students go with middle students and middle students go with bottom students. (See the picture to the right to get the idea.)

You want to have a responsible, on-task type student in each pair. You can avoid bitter enemies or students who have had problems in the past. But you do not need to match students up with their friends. They are here to practice, not to socialize. Also, do not give in to students who complain about their partners. Tell them “This is going to give you a chance to practice your ‘niceness skills’ which are important to learn. Even if you don’t like them, just do your work and practice your ‘niceness skills.'”

If you do have a volatile situation, you can change the partners, but be sure to change several pairs to obscure the real reason for the change. If students realize they can get out of having a partner by creating a bunch of drama, you’re in for a long year.

How do you avoid a lot of time lost in transition?

Once you’ve set up the partners, you have to set up a routine for “getting with your partner.” You can have a bunch of different solutions for getting with your partner. Some students may just turn around, while others bring a chair, and still others meet at a different part of the classroom. You need to explain to each student in each pair how they will “get with your partner.” 

Then once you have established that, you need to practice several times in row, “getting with your partner.” You want them to move smoothly and quickly, arriving with the correct materials and getting ready to begin immediately. Students must practice this several times, and perhaps a couple of days in a row. You want to stress that this should happen quickly and quietly. This is not a time to catch up with your friends or visit a new part of the classroom. Prompt the students with something like this, “This should happen how, everybody?” Students should answer with, “Quickly and quietly.” Then consider timing the transition to go for a record. You will be amazed at how quickly this can happen if everyone is focused and a routine has been established. When you have quick and quiet transitions in your room, that’s the mark of a real pro!

How can you ensure effective practice and corrections?

You are going to have to teach an explicit set of procedures to students so they know how to engage with each other. You will need to explain how to practice as well as how to correct errors. Then after teaching the correction procedure, you will need to make ALL of your students model the correction procedure. You do this by role-playing yourself as a student and calling on students to be your tutor/checker while everyone listens. Then you role-play making errors, so your tutor/checker can model the correction procedure. This lets you know if students are ready to work in pairs because they have demonstrated the correct procedures working with you.

How do you keep the students on-task?

You must make the activity into an “endless task” that can continue until you say stop. That way, everyone must keep working, and there’s no excuse to stop. If there is an acceptable reason to stop working, e.g., “We’re done,” then students will stop working. When students can finish a task, they will. What’s more, they will say they are finished (because you can’t tell) even when they are not. Some pairs may never begin. You want a situation where everyone has to be working all the time, so you can have the same expectation for everyone the whole time. This is the reason students practice facts in Rocket Math in a circle, so they just keep practicing around and around until the teacher says stop. That’s an “endless” task, which is key to keeping students on task.

You have to actively monitor the whole-time peers are practicing with each other.

Unfortunately, this is not a good time to get the attendance roster turned in. Or catch up on grading. You must treat this as an important activity if you want the students to do the same. You need to circulate among the students the whole time. You’ll need to bend down to get your ear next to their practicing so you can hear what is actually going on. You’ll be looking for student pairs that are following the approved (and modeled) correction procedure. When you hear that, stand up and publicly praise that pair so everyone can hear. “Wow, I just heard Tom and Betty doing a perfect correction procedure. They are really going to learn this material well. They are putting forth a real college effort.” Of course, if students are not on-task, be sure to remind them, and circle back to that pair soon, so they can redeem themselves by getting back on task.

How do you handle student disputes and controversy?

When a pair of students come up with a complaint, you can’t adjudicate it because you weren’t there! Therefore, repeat this mantra, “The checker is always right.” Then every time there is a dispute, repeat your mantra, “The checker is always right.” That means the checker’s ruling decides the issue, and you won’t overrule the checker, no matter how eloquent the complaint. If you keep saying the same thing all the time, like a broken record, students will come to realize you’re just going to say, “The checker is always right.” They will soon stop complaining altogether. Which will be a thing of beauty when it happens.

Peer teaching is only effective if managed well.

As you can see from the foregoing, there are several key management strategies that you need to employ to make peer teaching effective. 

  • You need to have the right kind of task assigned and to provide answer keys. 
  • You must set up the peer partners so that you have at least one conscientious worker in each pair. 
  • You need to establish a routine and speedy transition for students to “get with their partner” for peer teaching to begin. 
  • You need to teach students how to correct errors and ensure they’ve learned the procedure by making them model it.  
  • You must set up the task to be “endless” so that no students can get off-task because they are “done.”
  • You must actively monitor student engagement the whole time they are working. Actively monitoring means walking around, listening to them work, and loudly praising those who are doing it right. 
  • And finally, you have to teach them the mantra, “The checker is always right,” to settle disagreements and controversies. 

If you do this right, it will become your favorite time of the day. I know because it always was for me. 

To learn more teaching strategies to incorporate into your class, read my Teaching Strategie blog posts. From benchmarks to worksheets for kindergarteners, Rocket Math has all the tools to help push your students to success!

 

 

 

 

Motivate all students fairly with Star Effort Awards

Star Effort Rating screen shows when students log into the game.

Students earn stars for how many sessions they have COMPLETED in the last 14 days. Four sessions earn one star, 8 session earn two and so on.  The stars they have earned show on an effort rating screen when each student logs in.  You should circulate when they log in and comment on their level of effort.  At first you may only see one or two stars, but be sure to publicly praise the students who are putting forth the most effort.  You might put the names of the students with the most number of effort stars on the board.  You could ask if anyone earned 3 stars, to raise their hand.  Anyone can put forth effort, so this is a very fair thing to praise and recognize.  The more effort they put forth, they more they will earn.

Star Effort Award Certificates for 12, 16, and 20 sessions in the last 14 days.

Motivation is most effective for students who don’t get it!

You can also print out a certificate and award it when students reach these upper levels of effort.  When you reward students for their effort, students who are watching, realize they can do it. Students know they can get an award if they try.  The benefit of the motivation is for the ones sitting in their seats watching. If you reward everyone, the ceremony will have no effect. The students watching the ceremony will feel motivated to win the next one. Rocket Math can guarantee you’ll get improved fluency because it is an effective intervention.

This level of effort is your goal for all students because playing the game daily is needed to really make progress on learning math facts.

12 sessions in 14 days for a 3 star effort award,

16 sessions in 14 days for a 4 star effort award, and

20 sessions in 14 days for a 5 star effort award. That’s one session each day in school and one for homework.

 

Math Fact Benchmarks: Guarantee To Meet Them With Student Effort & Rocket Math Online Game

Not meeting benchmarks: what should it mean?

When it comes to learning math facts, most students have had no opportunity to learn them in a systematic way.  Unless they have had an extraordinary school or an unusual teacher they have not received structured, systematic learning opportunities to memorize math facts. After three decades working in schools across the country, I know this to be the case.  Without systematic practice and effort, students will not meet math fact benchmarks. They won’t meet the Common Core expectation that students will “know [math facts] by memory.”   Whose fault is that?  It is not the student’s fault, nor the parent’s fault.  So “not meeting benchmark” should mean that here is an area where the school needs to provide some intervention to build fluency.

Are you certain your fluency intervention is effective?

The teacher and the school have an obligation to provide an intervention that is effective.  Some so-called “interventions” do not reliably produce increased fluency.  An essential part of using an intervention is to measure its effectiveness.  [That’s why IEP goals are supposed to have measurable short-term objectives!]  The best way to measure the effectiveness of a fluency intervention is with timed, curriculum-based fluency assessments.

If you measure the same way for the same amount of time, you can see if fluency is increasing. You can see that the student’s fluency is increasing if the student can complete more items during the timed test each time you measure. If the vast majority of all of the students improve in fluency, then you can be certain that the intervention is effective. The graph above shows that for Multiplication, 23,540 students have increased in fluency as they worked through the Rocket Math Online Game.  See evidence from all 16 Learning Tracks here.

Rocket Math Online Game is effective

As students work through the levels in each Learning Track in the Rocket Math Online Game, they are tested after completing the first level (A), then after completing 33% at level I, and then after completing 66% at level R, and then after they finish at level Z.  Each test is a 1-minute fluency test of a random selection of facts taught in that Learning Track.  Therefore, the scores are comparable. When the number goes up at each point in the curriculum, you can be sure that students are increasing in fluency.  The chart to the right shows site-wide data. You can see students improve on average as they work through the Learning Tracks in the Online Game.  You would not expect students to meet benchmarks until they have completed Set Z in the Learning Track.

Math fact fluency benchmarks in the Online Game: 16/minute in addition and subtraction.

The 1-minute RACEs in the Rocket Math Online Game are a good way to measure math fact fluency.  On average students exceed 16 per minute correct at Set Z and the average at the beginning is much less.  So a reasonable benchmark is 16 correct problems per minute.

The teacher can assign a 1-minute RACE at any time and the student will need to do it upon their next login.  The results will be available in the Review Progress screen as well as be exported from the button that gives “Results from Assigned races.”  However, the best measure of whether a student can meet the benchmark is after Set Z, when they have completed the Learning Track.  You can see the score by clicking on the pink button for exporting “Results from Scheduled Races.”

You can see the screenshot of an example of the results from scheduled races for all 16 Learning Tracks across our website.  You can see the Account Average shows improvement at each level.   Those scores after Set Z show that nearly all students are proficient by the end of the Learning Track.  So we know that the Online Game is an effective intervention.  But there’s a catch. At the Level Z test data there are no scores for students who had not completed Set Z in Multiplication.  Students have to actually play the game in order to learn.

Students must participate to learn: monitor and recognize effort

Assigning an effective intervention will not help unless students are engaged and participate.  Instead of reporting on benchmarks of academic achievement, why not report on benchmarks of effort?  Each time students login and complete a session (five, ten or fifteen minutes in length) on the Online Game their session is recorded towards their effort score for the last 14 days.  Students should complete a session every day in school and some at home for homework.  In the effort rating system every four sessions completed earns a star, so 15  completed sessions over the last 14 days earned the student to the left 3 and 1/2 stars.

If you monitor the effort scores and recognize students who are putting forth great effort, you’ll get more students participating.  Completing 12 sessions in the last two weeks is good effort and earns 3 stars.  16 sessions over the last two weeks would earn 4 stars!

You might consider giving out Star Effort Awards (available in the teacher section of the site) once a month for students who are putting forth super-star effort.  If you reward effort, we guarantee you’ll get achievement.   Soon after doing that, you’ll probably have to start awarding Learning Track certificates for students who are completing Learning Tracks. All awards are available on the admin page on Tab (K) in the main rainbow navigation bar.

 

 

 

 

Motivating Students & Recognizing Effort Keeps Kids Engaged

The Rocket Math Online Game app is a demonstrably effective intervention–meaning if students engage and participate, they will learn and improve achievement. However, assigning an effective intervention will improve achievement only if students are engaged and participate in the intervention. The key is by motivating students to reach higher goals.

In today’s world, many students do not habitually give you their best effort. When you praise and recognize only excellent outcomes, many students are not motivated. They doubt their own abilities and think they are out of the running for achievement awards. Motivating students, ALL students, including low performers to participate is essential. But how to motivate students to learn math? You need to begin by praising and recognizing participation and effort instead of success. A good intervention helps you do that.

Motivate Students by Recognizing Effort Instead of Achievement

 

Instead of reporting and recognizing on benchmarks of academic achievement, why not report on benchmarks of effort? The Rocket Math Online Game, gives you data on effort and participation. The Engagement Chart (see above) how many of your students completed how many sessions in the last 14 days. Sessions can be set at five, ten, or fifteen minutes in length. 

Who is working the hardest–recognize them! 

The Engagement chart shows how many students are getting up to the higher levels of engagement.

To find the individuals who are working the hardest look further down in the Review Progress page.  Down below the engagement chart there is a “Total” column which shows the number of sessions over the last two weeks.  It is adjustable as to which dates to be covered.  This selection shows from 10/01 to 10/21.   This column will tell you exactly who is working the hardest.  Click at the top of the column to sort it going downward to see which students is logging in the most sessions. The first student shows 22 sessions started and 9 completed (all the way to the end of the session). The second student started 14 sessions, but completed 9. The third student also started 6 sessions, but completed 6. This total data tells us the level of effort students have been putting forth to learn their math facts.  If you monitor this number and recognize students putting forth the most effort, you’ll get more students engagement.  School managers can do this for the whole school.  Teacher managers can do it for their class.  This is key to motivating their learning. 

What is a Good Effort and Participation?

You should expect, at a minimum that students do a complete session each day at school–which is 10 sessions in the last 14 days.  Therefore, 8 to 11 sessions in the last two weeks indicates a good “C” effort.  A good “B” effort would be completing 12 to 15 sessions in two weeks. That many sessions translate into a session every school day and more than one session a day, half the time. Any student with 16 or more sessions in the last two weeks is putting forth a great “A” effort.  Be sure to praise and recognize them and hold them up as an example, no matter what they have accomplished.

Motivating Students with the Award Certificates to Recognize & Reward Effort

The Rocket Math Online Game has Award Certificates, available to print out. You can find these right from your dashboard. “Award Certificates” are on the blue tab on the left-hand “rainbow” navigation.

Screenshot of Rocket Math's reward cards.
Give out some Award Certificates once every two to four weeks. Give them to the students who are putting forth the most effort in your class. For it to be effective, you have to make it kind of a big deal to get one of these. Sign the awards and then give them out in a little ceremony.

To have a successful ceremony, we recommend these steps:

  1. Having two adults to award the certificates
  2. Calling each student up to the room individually
  3. Handing them the certificate and shake their hand
  4. Having the awarded student stand in a line at the front 
  5. Calling the next student and repeated the first three steps, but adding that they shake hands with their fellow classmates before joining the line beside them

 

Motivation is most effective for students who don’t get it!

When you reward students for their effort, students who are watching, realize they can do it. They know they can get an award if they try.  The benefit of the motivation is for the ones sitting in their seats watching. If you reward everyone, the ceremony will have no effect. The students watching the ceremony will feel motivated to win the next one. Rocket Math can guarantee you’ll get improved fluency because it is an effective intervention.

Note, you are not rewarding achievement. You aren’t measuring them on how fast they are. You are noting that they did accomplish the goal of finishing the Learning Track. Rocket Math guarantees they will have improved their fluency. The Learning Track certificates are also available on the Award Certificates tab in the main rainbow navigation bar. The same ceremony you’ve been using for the general awards can include awards for completing Learning Tracks.

We also have sets of these Award certificates on card stock and glossy print available on our supplements store site.

After Effort Improves Accomplishment, Begin Rewarding Accomplishment also

Soon after starting regular awards ceremonies for effort, you’ll see students beginning to complete Learning Tracks. As they work through a Learning Track they develop fluency with the math facts in that Learning Track. So you can start awarding Learning Track certificates for the accomplishment of completing a Learning Track.

This is a powerful process. Rewarding effort first, then rewarding accomplishment, leads to learning. Once you see how well this process works, you can apply this elsewhere. It works in any area of your curriculum where effort will pay off in improved accomplishments. Motivating students only works if they believe they can succeed. That is why it is so important to begin by recognizing “effort,” something that everyone can do.

Rocket Math Knows How to Motivate Students to Excel in Math 

Rocket Math Online Game and Worksheet programs will help students reach each grade level math benchmark while motivating students to reach higher goals with the award certificates. Systematically teaching students to develop math fact fluency will pay off. Students will not only succeed at but learn to enjoy math.

A student must re-do part of Rocket Math? Motivate with the Toughness Certificate.

To encourage perseverance recognize and promote it when it is needed.

Print the Toughness Certificate pdf from here.

There are a variety of circumstances in which a student must re-do part of Rocket Math.  Sometimes you may accidentally re-set them back to Set A in the Online Game.  On occasion, a student’s folder may be lost in the Worksheet Program.  Sometimes they move in from elsewhere claiming they already completed up to some level for which they have no evidence.  You may see they are not at mastery at the level they are on and wisely decide to have them repeat the sequence over  at Set A.  These all call for perseverance and call for the Toughness Certificate.

Introduce the student to the Toughness Certificate

To make use of the Toughness Certificate, post it somewhere in your room.  When a student has to re-do part of Rocket Math or when they complain about too many Start-Overs in the Online Game, or starts to complain about having to re-do part of a Learning Track, take them over to the certificate, point to it and introduce them to the Toughness Certificate.

Toughness Certificate pep talk

“This certificate is for people who have to do hard things.  I know it is hard having to re-do Rocket Math.  It takes a lot of perseverance to keep going all the way to Z.  If you can do it without whining about it, then you will earn this Toughness Certificate.  Not everyone can earn this, but if you can prove you’re NOT A WHINER, I will award this to you.  Dr Don knows how hard this is and he and I will have signed this for you and you will have earned it!  Do you think you can do this even though it is hard?  Are you tough enough?”

Remind them of the certificate when they complain

Each time a student complains about having to re-do Rocket Math, remind them of the Toughness Certificate and that they can earn it, if they can hang in without complaining.  If they don’t complain, also remind them of the Toughness Certificate and how they are clearly earning it by not complaining. “You are really tough.  I can see you are earning a Toughness Certificate.”

When the student passes Level Z award the Toughness Certificate publicly

When students complete a Learning Track or pass Set Z in the Worksheet Program, you should make a ceremony of awarding the Toughness Certificate.   Call them to the front of the room.  Read the copy at the bottom aloud in front of the class.  Say, “Dr. Don and I are awarding this Toughness Certificate to (insert name) for extraordinary perseverance for starting over in parts of Rocket Math without whining about it.  We know it was tough, but we admire how you did it anyway.”  Encourage a round of applause for the student and shake their hand as you hand it to them.  You might also award a Learning Track certificates for finishing a Learning Track.  You’ll make the student proud and you’ll be on your way to teaching a valuable life lesson: perseverance.

Writing Numbers Backward: Why Kids Do It & How To Help

The group “The Who” was correct when it comes to kids writing their numbers backward: The kids are alright.  Children writing their numbers backward is not something to worry about. It is natural and expected. But it must also be fixed.  With instruction and encouragement, all children can learn to write their numbers correctly with ease. 

Why Do Kids Write Numbers Backward?

A chair mirrored is still a chair, while a seven mirrored is not the same to help children who are writing numbers backwards.

For the first several years of our lives, we learn that “orientation-in-space” does not change an object’s identity. Turn a chair any which way, and it is still a chair. We learn this lesson well enough that we stop paying attention to an object’s orientation in space.

So, it is not surprising that kids sometimes write their numbers backward. It would be more surprising if they never did. Students need to learn to write certain symbols to face a specific direction.

 

What Does it Mean When Kids Write Numbers Backward?

When children write their numbers backward, they are mirror writing their letters or numbers backward or upside down. They need to learn that while a chair may be mirrored and is still a chair, a 7 mirrored is no longer a 7.

Is it Normal for a Child to Write Numbers Backward?

Students work with together to learn how to write their numbers.It’s perfectly normal for kids to write numbers backward. Some kids will even write from right to left, reversing all their numbers. It’s important for children to learn how numbers face, but don’t feel you must prevent your kid from writing this way or make them instantly correct it. Instead, you want to tell them that it is “better” or “more grown-up” to make the number face this direction. It will take time and gentle reminders.

Writing Numbers Backward in Kindergarten at Age 5 & 6

At age 5 and 6, it’s normal for kids to write numbers backward. But it is still important to begin working with them to understand which way numbers face. It may still seem random at age 5, but focusing on encouraging them that it’s better to write numbers “the smart way” will be effective.

 

Writing Numbers Backward at age 7 & 8

At age 7, students who are still writing their letters backward may have started a bad habit that’ll take a good bit of practice to break. If beyond age 7, a student is still writing their numbers backward or upside down, this could be a sign that they are having difficulty with reading or language. This is NOT a sign of dyslexia.

 

Is Writing Numbers Backward a Sign of Dyslexia?

A chair mirrored is still a chair, but a d reversed turns into a b.

Writing numbers backward isn’t a sign of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a reading disorder that involves problems identifying speech sounds and how they relate to letters and words. Writing backward is a sign of not learning which way symbols face.

It’s common, however, for students with difficulties learning to read to continue reversing their letters such as b and d. Reversing “b” and “d” has the same cause as writing numbers backward: learning that orientation in space does matter. However, when it comes to “b” and “d,” the reversal is actually “that other letter” and isn’t just “backward.” The distinction between which is b and which is d is somewhat harder for children to learn. Students who have problems with hearing the sounds in words (called phonemic awareness) will find it harder to remember which letter is in which word. But, even children with dyslexia can learn to read; it just takes more focused instruction.

 

Do Kids Grow Out of Writing Numbers Backward?

It’s important for children to learn to write symbols in a certain way and why by a teacher and or parents. It helps to have someone tell them when they have written a number backward and to reinforce them when they get it right. Some children notice this without much prompting, so we say they “grew” out of it. But really, they just learned it on their own. If you want them to be successful, don’t hesitate to help them learn to write their letters and numbers correctly. Be nice and supportive, but do give clear information.A mom congratulates her son at a baseball game.

How Can I Help my Child if they are Writing Numbers Backward?

An example worksheet from Rocket Math with an example of a 7 at the top to help kids who are writing numbers backwards..

The best way to help is to make an example of “the way it is supposed to face” on any paper before your child starts working. Say something like, “See if you can make all your sevens face this way. It is hard, but you might be able to do it.” Your child can then check each time he or she writes the number to make sure they are making it face the same way as your example.

By the way, writing “7” a hundred times won’t help because after the first one it is just doing the same thing over and over. The issue is remembering which way it has to face when you write it. So having it available as a reference means your child has to remember, “Oops. Which way does a seven face? Oh, that’s how it faces. Hey! I got it right!”

Another powerful way to help is to notice and be impressed when they write their numbers the right way and congratulate them. “Wow! All your sevens on this page are facing the right way. Way to go! You are really learning this.” If you are impressed by their learning, they will be motivated to keep remembering and it will boost their self-esteem.

When Is it Time to Talk to Their Teacher?

If you notice your child is frustrated after school when they were trying to write their numbers, you can bring it up with the teacher at the conference time. Ask them if they are giving your child an example of how to write the number to look at when writing their numbers. But other than consistently helping your child learn the arbitrary rule about which way certain numbers face, there is nothing else the teacher can or should do. Please don’t ask them to “test” your child for dyslexia on account of these backward numbers.

Image of worksheet to help kids who are writing numbers backwords learn to write them correctly.How Can Rocket Math Help?

Rocket Math offers Rocket Writing for Numerals that will help your child learn how to write their numerals correctly. Each worksheet focuses on a group of numbers to show children how to write their numbers in the right direction and with the right form. Learning to write numbers correctly takes time, patience, and encouragement from teachers and parents.

Positive Praise: Building Effective Teaching Habits

Positive praise is one of the most effective ways to encourage wanted behaviors from students. Because building habits is not an easy task, here are a few things you can do to start easily incorporating positive praise in the classroom.

  1. Be prepared with positive phrases
  2. Develop the most effective wording
  3. Start Small with two areas you would like to see improved behavior
  4. Practice in the Classroom and watch the effect it has on your students
  5. Grow and expand your positive phrases over time as you master the habit

Be Prepared with Positive Praise Phrases

I distinctly remember trying to help pre-service teachers build the teaching habit of positive praise. I would make suggestions and then observe. Trying to implement my suggestions wasn’t as easy as you would imagine – these teachers would glance in my direction and start the sentence “I like the way you’re . . .” and then trail off without knowing what to say.

Teachers want to use positivity and affirmation with their students, however, in my experience, they don’t always have the appropriate words ready to praise good behavior. Building the teaching habit of positive praise starts with getting the right words ready.

Recently I was reminded of this key component of building the new habit of making more positive statements. I wanted to personally develop this positive statement habit, but for some reason was not making the progress I had hoped for.

I quickly realized that I was making the same mistake I had watched the pre-service teachers make. I was unable to make more positive statements because I did not have any in mind that were ready-to-use.

To build the habit of making more positive statements, I would have to start memorizing some key phrases to keep on standby, ready to use when I needed them.

Positive Praise Example Phrases: How to Develop the Right Wording

The first step in positive praise is learning and developing the most effective wording. Using effective wording means you are getting through to your student, and clearly communicating that you appreciate the good behavior they are exhibiting.

Praise is most effective when it is prompt – when you deliver the praise in the moment. Can you picture a specific scenario in your classroom when many of the students are not doing as you asked, while a few students are dutifully following instructions?

This is the perfect scenario to use positive praise not only in rewarding students with good behavior but also encouraging other students to follow suit. Don’t be afraid to praise good behavior loud and proud for the rest of the classroom to hear!

Here are some examples of positive praise:

  • Look at Alan so smart sitting in his seat and showing me he is ready to learn. Way to go, Alan.
  • I see Beto is tracking with his finger while Claudio is saying the facts. That’s the way to help your partner!
  • Julia, you are so sharp having your eyes on the teacher, so you can learn!  I am impressed.
  • Stacy and Sophia know just what to do, they have their books open to page XX.  They are so on top of it!
  • Fantastic, Justin! You put your pencil down and are waiting for directions.  I can tell you’re going to college.
  • Stephanie is being such a great on-task student by working quietly and not talking.

Start Small: Pick Two Key Behaviors You Would Like to See More Of

Start out by choosing wanted behaviors from the two most annoying or frustrating scenarios you face as a teacher.  Stating small will help you build a consistent habit of giving positive praise.

Take these two wanted behaviors and build two praise statements you can easily use in-the-moment. Make sure the statement names the behavior specifically. Always include the student’s name, and keep it simple and affirmative.

Now, take a note card or piece of paper and write down these two statements. Don’t wait! Write them down now and keep this note in front of you while you teach. It will serve as a reminder throughout your day to incorporate positive praise as much as possible.

Practice saying these phrases aloud until you have them memorized and can recall them without having to think about it. The most important step in building this habit? Actually practicing positive statements in the classroom.

With these key components and diligent practice in the classroom, you will quickly build the habit of positively praising your students.

Positive Praise in The Classroom: Will it Make a Difference?

Fortunately, positive praise is free and can be implemented at any time throughout the school year. Start using positive praise now, and watch how your students respond.

Prepare yourself for giving positive praise when you are about to begin those frustrating scenarios. When the activity begins, look for opportunities to praise the behavior you are looking for when you notice students who are off-task.

You will see results when you use positive praise genuinely and with enthusiasm. You will know it is working if you watch for those distracted students taking notice of who is being praised. If you notice this happening, keep it up. The more praise you give for wanted behavior, the more that behavior will occur.

Grow and Expand Your Positive Praise Habit

Now that you know how to promote a specific behavior with positive praise, you can systematically develop statements for all your troublesome areas.  Every time students are not doing what you want, think of what you want them to do instead.  Behavior analysts call those replacement behaviors. 

Positive praise can also be used creatively alongside other motivational tools in the classroom. When I began my teaching career I was in the habit of scolding behaviors I did not want. Early in my career, I learned the effectiveness of positive praise and began incorporating it into my daily routine.

When I saw the behavior I wanted I would give loud and proud praise for all to hear. I decided to couple this by adding marbles to a jar every time I gave praise, as an added motivational tool – so students could see how well they have been doing. It worked wonders on increasing wanted behavior.

Building new habits is never easy, but I can personally say that as a teacher, learning to incorporate positive praise into your teaching routine will not only help students learn, but it will save you a lot of frustration!

If you are currently looking for a job as a math teacher abroad, check out this link on Jooble.

Rocket Math Teaches Math Facts Fast!

Do your students struggle to complete their timed math worksheets? Is your classroom a sea of finger-counting during fast math facts practice?

Your students aren’t the problem. It’s your teaching technique that’s hindering progress.

Help your students learn math facts quickly and gain confidence in their skills with Rocket Math’s research-based program. The program works because it teaches memorization through multiple, evidence-based techniques that work for all types of learners.

Why Faster Is Better

learn math facts fastLearning math facts at a young age plays a key role in a student’s ability to succeed throughout their education as well as out in the real world.

Not only does math fact memorization serve as a foundation to other math skills, but it also plays a part in motivating student. Most children will feel a sense of pride and excitement when they recognize their ability to quickly recall math facts.

Once a student develops instant recall, math assignments become easy and fast. It enables students to easily recognize many things about numbers that teachers call “number sense.” It gives them confidence. And frankly, they like going fast much better. This makes teaching and learning math far more enjoyable!

Fortunately, almost every child is capable of memorizing math facts in such a way that allows them to call upon them instantly and painlessly. The problem is, many traditional forms of teaching math facts are not effective.

The Problem with Traditional Teaching Techniques

When I was a teacher, I found myself frustrated with the ineffectiveness of traditional teaching tools – specifically when it came to teaching math facts. Repetition, counting, and endless worksheets seemed to leave students discouraged. These old techniques were not taking into account a few simple facts about memorization.

A More Effective Approach to Teaching Fast Math Facts

To help your students memorize math facts effectively, you need to consider five things:

  1. How many math facts to introduce in one session
  2. How fast a student can answer individual math facts
  3. How fast a student can answer multiple math facts
  4. When to introduce new math facts
  5. How often a student practices

1. Introduce a small number of math facts in one session

In grad school, I learned a simple fact about memorization that changed the way I look at teaching math facts: the brain can only process a handful of facts at a time. This fact has shaped a foundational part of Rocket Math, the math fact program I developed to help students effectively learn their math facts.

learn math facts on bite at a timeWhen students are presented with too many facts – perhaps on a worksheet – the brain will not even begin to attempt remembering. Instead, it has been found that when small groups of facts are presented and practiced, the brain can easily absorb the new information.

Rocket Math uses this knowledge to help students learn much faster and gain confidence in their math skills. Rocket Math only presents two math facts and their reverse facts at a time. This simple trick makes a world of difference. As the saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time . . .”.

 

2. Help Students Quickly Recall Individual Math Facts

There is a common misconception among teachers and parents that struggling to remember an answer is valuable. Picture the child scratching his head as he racks his brain for the right answer. Unfortunately, this is not an effective way to teach math. In order to strengthen the neural connections that are involved in memorization, recalling the correct answer quickly is key.

When students are forced to rework the problem in their head multiple times, it does nothing for their recall abilities. That is why rather than having the student guess multiple times, Rocket Math uses a correction tool that immediately reminds students of the right answer if at first, they answer either slowly or incorrectly. This helps to build the memory as they are reminded over and over of the right answer.

3. Practice a Series of Math Facts Quickly for Easy Recall

child learning math facts with memorizationOnce a child has practiced calling to mind a handful of math facts, it is time to practicing recalling them, making sure they can do so quickly. Recalling facts can be done at a high speed, whereas figuring out math facts you can’t recall can take a long time.  That is why practicing fast recall is important. Repeatedly recalling fact will strengthen a student’s memory while offering a fun challenge. If the student can’t recall the math facts quickly they may need extra help from the teacher to learn the facts before continuing with quick recall practice.

Rocket Math only has students practice for a few minutes at a time, as that is all is needed when quickly recalling math facts. To measure progress, Rocket Math utilizes 2-minute timing exercises every couple of weeks to see how well students are able to recall math facts. Our free fluency tests are also a great assessment tool for testing student knowledge. 

4. Carefully Build Math Fact Fluency

Teachers should be thoughtful of the rate at which they introduce new math facts. Before adding more groups of facts, previously learned facts should be well mastered. A student is ready for another handful of facts when they can recall their current set without hesitation. At first, it may seem like this approach will take longer, but because of the efficiency of memorization, students will move quickly through lessons and build math fact fluency with ease.

5. Practice Math Facts Daily for Long-Lasting Fluency

Because there are so many math facts to learn it is important to start children early and to practice daily. This gives students a chance to learn all of the math facts within all four operations. Spreading facts out over time and including daily practice throughout elementary school years will greatly improve a student’s foundational math skills.

Rocket Math: A Modern Approach to Teaching Math Facts

Rocket Math’s research-based program incorporates these modern teaching techniques to help young learners master math facts fast. With the program, recalling math facts becomes easy and enjoyable. It also sets students up for continued success throughout their education.

Learn more about using Rocket Math’s subscription worksheet program in the classroom and the online math fact game.

Testing season activities: 5 Reasons to Use Rocket Math During Testing Gaps

Testing season is stressful.  The task of scheduling testing for each student in the school is difficult.  It causes significant stress due to time logistics, student absences, and disrupted schedules. Teachers know how difficult it can be to deal with odd and awkward time gaps.   What testing season activities can fill those holes?

Teachers spend a lot of time juggling schedule and testing material.  Students are anxious about the tests as well.  Often the mood in the classroom can feel tense.

We at Rocket Math are concerned about the success of students. We know how precious teaching time is. We believe that doing Rocket Math practice sessions can significantly aid during the busy spring test season.  Here are five reasons why doing Rocket Math is a great activity during testing season.

1. Rocket Math is a time efficient testing season activity.

Your students are familiar with the Rocket Math routine.  They know just what to do. The process of doing Rocket Math from start to finish should take no longer than ten to fifteen minutes. When you have one of those short intervals created by the testing schedule, you can make good use of this short amount of time. Rocket Math fits in a short amount of time and is still productive.

2. Rocket Math can be used during multiple testing season gaps.

As test schedules tend to have multiple gaps, Rocket Math works great as an activity that can be used multiple times throughout the day without causing extra work for teachers. Students actually appreciate the opportunity to have another chance to practice Rocket Math in the same day.

Students can easily use Rocket Math a second or third time during their school day without any negative impact. In fact, multiple sessions of Rocket Math during a single day can help students progress faster.

3. Rocket Math is a testing season activity that doesn’t require re-teaching lessons.

As students are taking make-up tests, the rest of their classmates need something to do in the classroom. Because students work in pairs during Rocket Math allows students to work through math lessons on their own.  Because it is just practice, there is no need to re-teach material, students taking their make up tests filter back into the classroom.

As long as there is at least a 15-minute gap between testing sessions, students can easily complete a Rocket Math session. The best part is, because students are familiar with the Rocket Math process, teachers don’t need to explain a new activity to each student who filters in after testing.

4. Rocket Math is a highly engaging and productive testing season activity.

Many teachers struggle to fill time in the gaps between test sessions. Reading time or make-up work is often the go-to solution.   Teachers know that these activities don’t seem productive or engaging.  Plus, students know that these time-filling activities “don’t count.”  Rocket Math however, does count!

In contrast, Rocket Math offers students a fun and creative way to effectively learn critical skills that are necessary for future success.

5. Rocket Math is a testing season activity that students truly enjoy.

Accountability tests can cause stress due to unfamiliarity, whereas Rocket Math offers students comfort in an activity that they know and enjoy.  As Rocket Math shows progress along the way, each student gains a sense of pride in their accomplishment and is more likely to feel motivated to continue learning.

When there are gaps between test sessions, Rocket Math can provide students a boost of confidence as they are instantly gratified by their success.

During this busy spring test time, I highly recommend teachers are prepared with their Rocket Math folders to help productively fill the time gaps left in the daily schedule. Rocket Math is a quick and easy testing season activity.  It can be used during multiple gaps as an engaging learning tool.  Doing Rocket Math helps students feel accomplished in an otherwise stressful testing period.

Four make-or-break principles for motivating students

Many teachers are concerned about how to best motivate students.  We want to appeal to intrinsic motivation rather than having students work for extrinsic rewards.  None of us want to foster unhealthy competitiveness in our classroom.  Teachers want to motivate ALL the students, not just the most able and brightest students.  Here are four principles of motivation that need to be taken into account when designing a system of motivation.

1.Is the teacher impressed? 

The most powerful aspect of any reward or recognition is how the teacher acts when giving it out.  Teachers powerfully motivate their students when their affect is one of being impressed by the accomplishment.  Students love to do something that “wows” their teacher.  Children are motivated to do things that impress adults.  When adults seem like they think the child really did something amazing, then the concrete form of the recognition doesn’t matter.  Even a slip of paper,if it’s given out for an impressive accomplishment, will be highly sought after.  A food prize, that is given out without caring by the teacher, will be worth little.  The Olympic gold medal is powerful because of the recognition that everyone gives to that accomplishment–it has nothing to do with the actual token given.

2. Does it represent a concrete achievement? 

The accomplishment that is rewarded must be a concrete achievement that is objectively measured.  The students must all know what it takes to earn it.  Teachers sometimes give out recognition that appears to be subjectively awarded.  That is not good.  If students can think, “Well Billy got that award because the teacher likes him,” then they will not be motivated.  Students need to see a task or behavior (that they could do if they work hard) as the reason for the award.  Students have to believe they will get the reward even if the teacher does not like them.  All they have to do is work hard and they’ll get the reward.  Then they will be motivated.  Conversely, if everyone gets one regardless of their accomplishments, then it will be meaningless.  Trophies for all makes them worthless.

3. Based on personal accomplishment rather than on beating the competition?

A concrete achievement also lessens competition.  Students are not competing against each other.  Instead, they are competing with themselves.  Everyone who accomplishes that goal will be rewarded.  If students feel they have a realistic shot at the reward, then it will be motivational.  They may not be the first to accomplish that goal, but if they stick to it and keep working, they can eventually get there.  If adults are impressed by the achievement (and they’ve seen evidence of that–see #1) then students will be motivated to achieve it.

4. Is the achievement possible for all students to achieve?

To motivate ALL the students, the achievement needs to be something that is the result of effort rather than talent.  It should be something that might take a while to achieve.  If anyone can do it immediately (like breathing) then there’s no glory. Students need to know that it can be achieved with effort, if you keep trying.  Accumulating 25 miles of running (100) laps is a more motivating goal for students with less athletic skill than trying to be the fastest runner in class or breaking a record for the mile.  In Rocket Math, teachers have reported instances where their whole class spontaneously cheered when a student who had a lot of difficulty and many failures, finally passes their first level.  Now that’s how good motivation is supposed to work!