July 15, 2011

Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire - Part 1

After feeling like something was missing from my teaching last year and wanting to do better I have started reading professional books. I don't remember who recommended this one, but I am grateful. Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith is a fun read. I actually had a hard time putting it down.

Some of the great things I learned or relearned:

Six Levels of Moral Development by Lawrence Kholberg 
(Teach the children where in the past they might have been at one or two, this year our goal is reaching level five or six.)

1.     I don’t want to get in trouble – based on fear and intimidation
2.     I want a reward - give me stickers, candy, or extra recess
3.     I want to please someone - tell me how proud you are
4.     I follow the rules – Here it is important to teach them about rule breakers. (Rosa Parks, MLK, Ghandi)
5.     I am considerate of other people – Attikus Finch “Walk a mile in their shoes”
6.     I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it – hardest to demonstrate but the best!


  • Teach them grammar! It is important. (I love Brian Cleary books. Fun and informative. I also like simple sentences about what we will learn that day written incorrectly on purpose. Or giving them scrambled sentences to put in order.)
  • Teach them time management - give them the opportunity to plan for themselves. Ex. You have until Friday to turn in a draft. (I wish I had learned this in elementary school. Then I would not be struggling with it as much today.)
  • Essay of the week – Assigned on Friday and collected on the next Friday (Switch up the topics, silly, serious, explicit, open-ended, genre based. So many great things to write about. All you need is to insist on good form, nice handwriting, checked for spelling and punctuation)
  • Sometimes type a couple of the essays up without putting a name on it and have student’s correct as a class.
  • Young Authors Projects - give them the opportunity to publish their writing. (I wonder could a class blog be helpful here? Could I get a mother to type them up as they are written so we can assemble a book at the end of the year?)

Teach them the why not just the how.
Teach them math is challenging but fun. Rafe used Mental Math Warm-ups, Marcy Cook Style. 

Each child has ten tiles numbered 0-9. They are then given multi step problems that challenge their minds. See her website to get a better idea. 

(Could I create something like this?) 
Rafe goes on to explain how to write basic multi-step problems that add in concepts from other disciplines. Ex. Think of how many states we have. Add the number of original colonies. Subtract the number of our current president. What number do you have? I created some of my own to help you get started. They range in difficulty because I was just trying to get my brain in gear. Feel free to change and modify as needed.

Rafe also wrote about the importance of teaching children to problem solve. Sometimes his students would come to school at 6:00 AM to practice with him. Wow!

How to Problem Solve:
1.     Understand the problem
2.     Choose an appropriate strategy
a.     Act it out
b.     Choose an operation
c.      Draw a picture
d.     Guess and check
e.     Look for a pattern
f.      Make a chart or table
g.     Make an organized list
h.     Use logical reasoning
i.       Work Backwards
3.     Solve the problem
4.     Analyze – does it make sense?

I have a lot more to share. But I think I will stop here so you can have some time to process your thoughts. Let me know what you think and enjoy!

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