Teaching Mindfulness

The practice of meditation harkens back to ancient civilizations and has, until recently, been practiced almost exclusively by religious practitioners. The sharing of knowledge between Eastern and Western cultures has expanded the utility of meditation, namely mindfulness meditation, to secular and practical applications.

Mindfulness meditation focuses on the natural rhythm of breathing. This seemingly simple task can be difficult for most beginners to do for more than five to ten seconds at a time. Thoughts often intrude during these moments of quiet, and it is the job of the teacher to guide their students in recognizing and letting go of those thoughts. The goal is to notice the thought as it arises, observe the thought objectively, and then let it go.

Practicing mindfulness has validity in neuroscience and psychology. In the early 1960’s it was scarcely touched by Western researchers. There were only a few publications in scientific journals. Now, there are several thousand publications across several serious scientific journals espousing the benefits of mindfulness including stress reduction, improved mood, and increases in creativity.

Mindfulness when coupled with physical activity such as yoga or stretching can improve the well-being of students and increase engagement. Brief, yet effective mindfulness breaks can be just what a classroom needs to focus pent up energy and get back on track.

Have you tried using mindfulness in your classroom? Let us know in the comments section!

Good Behavior Game

Good Behavior Game – A Tried and True Method to Improve Classroom Behavior

Introduction

Anyone who has ever worked with children, especially in the schools, can testify that it is hard to teach when students are exhibiting problem behaviors. Teachers have to identify what is causing the problem behavior then somehow address it. There are a variety of classroom management strategies that can effectively manage the behavior once it has been identified. The Good Behavior Game (GBG), which is described further in the Evoke Classroom Behavior Management modules, has been shown to be very successful at addressing issues with 80% of students having improved behavior. By implementing the GBG in their classroom a teacher can improve the learning environment for the vast majority of students and more easily identify those who are at-risk and may be in need of more support.

What is it?

The Good Behavior Game emphasizes frequent behavior-specific praise, teamwork between students, teacher monitoring of students, and promotion of appropriate behavior in the classroom. This helps students better understand what is expected and gives the teacher an opportunity to reward those behaviors. Students earn points for their team when they exhibit the appropriate behaviors. To motivate actually adhering to the desire behaviors students can win things like candy, extra time for arts & crafts, or other things that they desire.

In my experience as a behavior consultant, the Good Behavior Game, has always either solved the problem or helped significantly. Here’s how I teach the game and what I have observed. In schools I use the “I Do, We Do, You Do” format – I model the game, the teachers and I implement the game together, then I observe the teacher implementing the game and provide constructive feedback.

How To Implement the Game

I teach the game in an “I Do, We Do, You Do” format – I model the game, we implement the game together, and then you implement the game independently and I will provide constructive feedback. During the “I Do” stage, I explain that teams can earn points by following the behavioral expectations (i.e., classroom rules) posted in the classroom.

When I explain that winning teams can earn access to a “mystery” reward students start to get excited and want to begin. During the game, students’ eyes light up when it is announced that their team received a point. They are having fun, and because points are paired with behavior-specific praise, they continue to engage in that exact appropriate behavior to continue earning points. It doesn’t take long before students are whispering encouragement to each other to exhibit the desired behavior!

The Results Speak for Themselves

It’s not just the students who are excited, it’s the teachers too. Teachers start to smile more, and experiment with movement around the classroom to monitor the students. As they are looking for reasons to give points to the students it becomes more intuitive to give behavior-specific praise further encouraging students to behave. Teachers look forward to implementing this independently and communicate positive observations of their students, including greater on-task, positive interactions between students, and more work being produced than before.

Have any of you tried something like this and if so what was your experience? Do you use something else (ClassDojo, table points)? Let us know in the comments!

Dr. Aaron Fischer Receives Dee Endowed Professorship!

Dr. Aaron Fischer, co-founder of Evoke, has received the new Dee Endowed Professorship in School Psychology. This five-year professorship will provide additional resources that will help Dr. Fischer to continue his research at the University of Utah. Dr. Fischer’s research is focused on using technology and psychology to improve the learning experience. Currently that involves research into using video conferencing for consultative work including a “telepresence robot” that can be used in classrooms.

In recognition of the award Dr. Elaine Clark, dean of the College of Education said,  “Aaron Fischer epitomizes the work for which this honor is intended. He has demonstrated a high level of scholarly productivity and achievement as well as a strong commitment to the preparation of school psychologists, researchers and academicians.”

We are very excited for Dr. Fischer because these funds will allow him to accelerate his research. The award also gives recognition to the importance and significance of his work.

Congratulations, Dr. Fischer!

To learn more read the University of Utah announcement and an interview that Dr. Fischer gave in response.

University of Utah Annoucement – “Aaron Fischer is recipient of the Dee Endowed Professorship in School Psychology”

Dr. Fischer’s Interview with UofU – “A First in the College of Education”

How Does Your Mindset Affect The Classroom?

By: Rovi Hidalgo, M. Ed.

I noticed that the bulletin board outside her classroom was covered with student worksheets titled, “How can I have a growth mindset? What can I say instead?” I read students’ handwritten responses and nodded in agreement– these are important phrases, and I should use them too.

How Do Mindsets Impact Classrooms?

A student approached me the other day saying, “Ms. R., we have been in school for exactly 6 weeks.” I was surprised that it had only been this long; it felt like so much had happened since the first day of school. At this time, teachers in my building were busy preparing for parent teacher conferences as the end of the first term was nearing. One day when I was on my way to talk to a teacher, I noticed that the bulletin board outside her classroom was covered with student worksheets titled, “How can I have a growth mindset? What can I say instead?” I read students’ handwritten responses and nodded in agreement – these are important phrases, and I should use them too.

By now, you’ve probably heard of “growth mindsets.” The idea that intelligence is malleable and can grow was popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The topic of mindsets is trending in education today.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets

A growth mindset is defined as, “a belief system that suggests that one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning” (Ricci, 2013). In contrast is the “fixed mindset,” defined as “a belief system that suggests that a person has a predetermined amount of intelligence, skills, or talents” (Ricci, 2013). The difference between the two mindsets is significant: the growth mindset focuses on what learners could do, while the fixed mindset focuses on what learners can or can’t do. Another way of looking at it is this; the growth mindset recognizes student effort and potential while the fixed mindset assumes that students cannot improve past their current performance.

What can a growth mindset do?

While the concept of the growth mindset is popular in education, a person’s mindset has implications in psychological health, too! Research on growth mindsets produced the following conclusions: (a) there are connections between mental health and mindsets; (b) growth mindsets impact a person’s use of strategies to regulate emotions; and (c) growth mindsets motivate individuals to engage [with therapy] (Schroder et al., 2017). It was also found that the impact of stressful life events (such as depression, stress, substance use) was weaker if someone had a growth mindset (Schroder et al., 2017). How cool is it to know that even someone’s perspective can have great health benefits?

“Research on growth mindsets produced the following conclusions: (a) there are connections between mental health and mindsets; (b) growth mindsets impact a person’s use of strategies to regulate emotions; and (c) growth mindsets motivate individuals to engage [with therapy].”

How can I encourage my students to have a growth mindset?

Teaching students to have a growth mindset will impact their academic engagement, motivation to learn and how the interpret failure/success. Here are some ways to build a growth mindset in your classroom:

  • Teach students to rephrase negative thoughts, and reinforce them when they are used. One of the phrases I saw on a students’ worksheet was having them say, “I should try that again,” instead of, “I must be stupid because I got that problem wrong.” Sometimes, stopping those negative thoughts can be hard to do; teachers should reinforce their students for rewording their thoughts and statements as much as possible by using specific-praise.
  • Model a growth mindset. Teachers are integral components in a child’s development – they teach, guide, and help students across situations and topics. Teachers can model using statements such as, “Well, I didn’t quite get it that time but I can try this strategy,” and even ask the class what other strategies can be used to address a problem.
  • Praise students for putting in the effort for behavior and academic success. Behavior, in particular, can take a long time to change. If a teacher is attempting to implement a behavior intervention, or manage their classroom, be sure to praise and recognize students who do something appropriate even after they were engaging in inappropriate behavior before that. This encourages a growth mindset because it shows students that their effort is recognized, and they are not defined by their past experiences.

Evoke’s eLearning modules provides helpful strategies on how to praise students and give them positive recognition. Please contact us for more information on how to access our modules.

Memes to Brighten Your Day

Memes to Brighten Your Day

By: Rovi Hidalgo, M. Ed.

Can you believe that school has already been in session for a couple of months? Boy, does time fly! Teaching is hard and sometimes we need a good laugh to get through the day. Here are some of the best teacher memes on the internet for your viewing and sharing pleasure!

Behavior Management is Rough

Has anyone ever tried herding cats before? I have and it’s basically impossible – cats are small, agile, and can always find ways to escape. Managing kids can be difficult for similar reasons. Especially now that we’re a few months into the school year, I’m sure many of you have tried endlessly to address behavior. Thankfully, Evoke’s behavior management courses offer help addressing these problems.

Honestly, how many times do I need to ask?

We’ve all had a kid like this. They just stands up whenever they want to. They know exactly which one of your buttons to push that day (and every other day!). It can help to set up responses to noncompliance, though. Check out our courses for more.

I Live Dangerously

People think that teaching is just playing and hanging out with kids all day. Like, no, it’s actually quite the difficult job! But life is for living… let the kids choose their own partners! Just be sure to set up expectations beforehand, though – otherwise, you’re in for it.

How NOT to Handle a Chatty Class 101

Did you really think they’d stop sharing? Anyone whose worked with kids know that they love to share facts about themselves. You ask students to connect with the main character in a story, and boom! Suddenly, students are raising their hands and shouting out about how they also have brothers and sisters who go to school. If teachers use the waiting strategy, they’ll be waiting for a lifetime.

I Can Almost Taste It!

When kids are reminded that they are two points away from earning free time, you bet kids will start telling each other to stop talking, or to just “stop” in general. Yes, sometimes peer pressure can be good! That’s right, show me some appropriate behavior, and I will show you why to engage in it! Group contingencies at its finest.