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CLASS CLIMATE AND HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Class climate is never an accident. It is built, for better or for worse, through a complex and often invisible array of brain-changing strategies. Daily comments, experiences, and activities slowly inch up or inch down students perceptions of themselves, their goals, and their expectations. Occasionally a teacher will complain that a student has an attitude or seems unmotivated to learn. Typically, expert-level teachers create a climate in which students develop better attitudes. In short, instead of complaining about what kids dont have or dont do correctly, the high-performing teachers teach kids how to do the skills. How important is this difference? The effect size of students having expectations for themselves is off the charts high at 1.44 (Hattie, 2010). As teachers, we could say that students expectations come more from the students than from teachers, but in truth, kids are not particularly sophisticated or purposeful in managing their own beliefs. Teachers have much more to do with student attitudes than they think. This is good news. You have considerable control

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Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain

when it comes to inuencing students predictions about their own path. Your class climate is a daily salad in which you have located the ingredients, prepped them, arranged them, and served them. In a positive climate of academic optimism, students believe they can achieve high standards. Kids need to feel challenged and enjoy the learning, because the emotional climate strongly correlates with the level of academic achievement (Reyes et al., 2012). When a teacher thinks that a student is an attention decit/hyperactivity disorder kid or a troubled kid, it can work against both the teacher and the student. For example, when teachers are not labeling students, it ranks an impressive 0.61 in effect size contributing to student achievement (Hattie, 2010). Not labeling means expectations are high for every kid, not just the ones who show quick promise. Extensive research into emotional climate suggests there is a positive-tonegative ratio for optimal learning success that helps each of us perform our best in learning (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). When it comes to class climate, most teachers dont track the ratio of positive to negative interactions, such as afrmations versus reprimands. Maybe they should. Too many positives may lead to kids getting spoiled. Too many negatives may contribute to resistance and a foul mood in regard to learning. Use the 3:1 ratio of positives to negatives. The hope-building climate fostered by such a ratio is powerful in generating greater student achievement (Rand, 2009; Zimmerman, 1992). When determining a students level of motivation, we are also holding up a mirror to the ways we have touched or not touched his or her life. The students motivation and expectations are in large part a reection of the teachers efforts. For example, although there are countless ways teachers could answer students questions, those who create a positive climate nd ways to afrm curious students and challenge them to reach higher. The combination of all of these microeffects creates either a neutral, negative, or positive class climate in which students will either behave in motivated ways or become increasingly uninterested. Yes, you do make a differencea big one! When effort is up, when emotions are positive, you have a classroom environment in which effort is contagious. Heres how you can get more effort in your classroom climate.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Although you may not track the exact ratio of positive to negative interactions, remember that if you had to discipline a student on a given day, engage in three positive interactions with

Foster Student Effort

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that student before he or she goes home. Research shows that initiating or participating in three positive interactions for each reprimand works best.

Do not ask students to put down doing their personal best as a goal. Thats usually too low. Set high course goals and help students get to them. Students can set microgoals within the bigger goals. Lower the risk so that students feel safer in putting out the effort to respond. When students contribute, instead of responding with a Hmm, okay . . . , post up and use these rules: Everyone participates at least once a day, every day, in class. This means youll get thanked by me for every response and (1) volunteer a question or comment, (2) respond when called on, or (3) write out a written content question and give it to me as a door pass before you go. To boost classroom engagement and to get higher effort, use the two rounds for questions. In Round 1 (reactive), questions are quick surveys to nd out what students think a correct rst response might be. In Round 1, everyone raises their hand and jumps in. In Round 2, students get up to one minute to answer the same question, but this time, its on a deeper collaborative level. They can talk with a neighbor and reect on their answers. Both of the two types of answers will get more effort. Why? In the rst round, every student is thanked, right or wrong. Heres how Round 1 works: If you call on a student in class and he or she gives you an answer to your question, thank the student for his or her effort and participationwhether or not the student got the answer right. Do not tell the student whether he or she got it right or wrong. If you want more effort from kids, start giving positive feedback every single time they take a risk. Use the following types of responses to Round 1 student guesses: Thank you. Love the effort or Good enthusiasm, who

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Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain

else? Thanks for contributing or Thanks; lets check in with a few others. Youll notice that every single one of these responses focuses on the effort, not on the substance. In Round 1, never, ever say good or fantastic unless you specically qualify the word with a mention of effort (for example, Good effortthanks!). Otherwise, youll confuse your students (Hmm . . . did the teachers Good! refer to the answer I gave, or my effort?). Students may give inappropriate answers on purpose, just to see if youll get discombobulated. The better you maintain your cool, the less students will try to get you off balance. Round 1 is all about appreciating the effort and risk. From that perspective, every student contribution (within ethical and tasteful boundaries) is acceptable as an effort. When you reinforce effort, you get more of it. This strategy does three things: (1) it will get kids to feel safe about contributing to your class and lead them to become more condent; (2) it will get far more hands to go up; and (3) it gives you feedback on what a large number of kids know because you ask ve, ten, or twenty kids each time. How else can you get students to respond to you in Round 1? If the student is NOT READY and you call on him or her, the student can say: Id like a time lifeline (giving the student up to a minute before having to respond) or Id like to consult a neighbor. In this case, youll check back with the student in a moment. If the student has NO CLUE, he or she can say, I dont know, but Id like to know. In that case you call on the next student.

Tell students that something may be challenging, but they will have your support as they learn it and master it. Use music and positive energizers with more movement and celebrations to keep the physical and mental energy high as you show a real passion for teaching.