5 Ways to Promote Learning

Image of a student learning at a computer

We all want our children and students to do well in school. But there is a big difference between memorizing facts and true learning. Unfortunately, because of the proliferation of standardized tests, many students are merely memorizing facts for a short period rather than engaging in real lifelong learning.

The good news is that you can help students make meaningful connections between what they study in school and what happens in real life. A good start is to have young people learn the Levels of Development.

Here are 5 tips parents and teachers can use to promote learning in today’s youth.

1. Self-testing and asking “Why” questions are excellent ways to improve learning. To see if a student truly … >>>


Student Awards and Rewards: What Works and What Doesn’t

Image of a gold trophy.

I often say that doling out student awards and rewards is counterproductive. However, I must also say that I don’t condemn ALL student awards and rewards. Allow me to explain.

As a former instructional coordinator, I have come to the conclusion that awards ceremonies are counterproductive for LEARNING—especially when so many young people never find themselves in the winner’s circle and would therefore prefer to drop out rather than compete.

When it comes to learning, collaboration is much more effective. When people collaborate, they do not compete.

However, as a former high school athletic coordinator, I do believe in award ceremonies for athletics and other competitive activities such as spelling bees, high school band competitions, and academic decathlons THAT ARE … >>>


Make Learning Less Stressful

learning and stress

Many people find it challenging to separate themselves from what others may think about them. This is especially the case when it comes to learning. We can see this play out in classrooms and workplaces every day. Both children and adults are afraid to make a mistake when learning something new, and as a result they prefer not to take chances, not to speak up with new ideas, and not to stretch beyond their current comfort zone. Doing so is simply too stressful.

But consider this: generally, people are not embarrassed to make mistakes when learning a musical instrument. They don’t give up when they play a wrong note on the piano—or in my case the Great Highland Bagpipes.

The … >>>


Spark the Joy of Learning

Image of a spark that represents the joy of learning.

Many teachers and parents often ask me how they can instill a joy of learning in children who seem to hate school. Since it’s true that you teach someone something they don’t want to learn, the question then becomes, “How can you create interest so that the young person will WANT to do what you would like?” In other words, how can you spark the joy of learning? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Let the youngster know that you understand how he or she feels and that you will make no attempt to change the youngster’s feelings. (This approach is often referred to as paradoxical in that as soon as you indicate you will not do anything, the person very
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Tom Sawyer does what behaviorism, such as PBIS, can never accomplish

Tom Sawyer was a better psychologist than any behaviorist. Behaviorism relies on external approaches to control. In contrast, Tom inspired others to whitewash Aunt Polly’s nine feet high, 30 yards long fence. Here is how he did it—using an approach that behaviorism NEVER considers.

On the Saturday morning Tom was engaged in the project, Ben was on his way to the swimming pool and commented to Tom, “What a shame you have to work on Saturday.”

Tom replied, “This is not work. Work is something you are obliged to do.

Besides, I don’t think there may be one, maybe two in a thousand who can do the work the way Aunt Polly wants it done. She’s not too particular about … >>>


Make High Grades Meaningful for Students

high grades

For some students, earning high grades is an incentive. These students are very much interested in receiving good grades. However, some students are not interested in achieving high grades. Here is an example of how grades serve as an incentive:


My name is George H. Orfe, and I am the principal who told you the story of the boy and the $5 his father gave him for each “A” grade. You asked that I relate the story to you. Here it is.

I had a father of a fifth grader who gave his son $5 for each A on his report card. The first marking period the child received eight A’s and $40 from his father. The second marking

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Get Students to Do Homework

Get Students to Do Homework

How do you get students to do homework? That’s one of the most common questions I receive from teachers and parents alike.

Recently a 4th-grade teacher contacted me. He said that he was having a tough time getting his students to complete their homework. He believed in the Discipline Without Stress methodology and didn’t want to go back to the old way, where he would deduct points from the students’ overall grade if they failed to turn in homework (which was what his colleagues were urging him to do). This smart teacher knew there had to be a better way to get his students to do homework. But what?

How to Get Kids to Do Homework

I told him to … >>>


One of the Most Effective Teaching Methods

Effective teaching methods aren’t just for teachers. They’re for anyone who needs to transfer information or knowledge to another person.

Teaching someone (whether old or young) new information can be a challenge. Have you ever tried explaining something to someone and felt like you must be speaking a different language? Perhaps the person was obviously confused or had a blank stare on their face. What can you do to make transferring information and knowledge easier?

The message of modern memory research is that the brain is wired to recognize and organize CONNECTIONS and that rote memorizing is usually ineffective. In other words, people are more likely to retain new information when they can relate it to what they already know.… >>>


The Quest for Perfection


Striving for perfection has plagued many people. Recently a parent wrote to me the following: “My oldest son is very good at math but resistant to practicing his language arts. The source of his problem seems to be that he feels he is not ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’ in this area. I explained to him that he needed to allow himself to learn using an example of how I would need to learn if I wanted to fly an airplane. While I will continue these efforts at home, I would like to also send him to a tutor who employs your techniques. Do you have a list of tutors or teachers who use your methods?”

My Response about Perfection

I … >>>


Learning and Memory

Learning and Memory

Learning and memory are acutely intertwined. When you’re trying to learn new information, think in terms of mastering small chunks rather than an entire course or concept. Why? Because the typical human brain can hold only about seven pieces of information (in contrast to experiences) for less than 30 seconds. If you need to remember information for longer than a few minutes or even a few hours, you will need to continually re-expose yourself to it. That’s simply how learning and memory work.

Neuroscientists refer to this as “maintenance rehearsal.” This is a form of remembering information that involves focusing on an object without thought to its meaning or its association with other objects. For example, when you repeat a … >>>


How to Help Struggling Students

How to help struggling students

Many teachers wonder what is the best way to help struggling students. These same teachers reveal that they often have to re-teach information to students. Doing so can be time-consuming and frustrating. Fortunately, there is a better way. It’s called pre-teaching.

Pre-teaching is often more effective and positive than re-teaching, and it is one of the best ways to help struggling students. This approach requires a shift in thinking and some pre-planning, but it does not necessarily require any more time than would be spent to help a less capable student who has not learned the material.

Pre-Teach to Help Struggling Students

We all know that no two students are alike. Some learn concepts very quickly, while others require more … >>>


Movement Improves Learning

movementThe human body was designed to move, which is why movement improves learning. People seem to be realizing this fact for adults, hence the movement for standing desks. But children need movement too! Expecting young people sit quietly for long stretches of time is not only bad for their health, but it also makes learning more difficult.

The more you have young people sit quietly and attend, the more opportunities you should give them to stand, stretch, and converse. Movement brings more oxygen to the brain; therefore, learning becomes more efficient. Additionally, many children are kinesthetic learners, meaning they need to have their body engaged and moving in order to comprehend and retain information.

If you are a teacher who … >>>


Self-Control in Children

self-controlWhen it comes to children doing well in school and life, the importance of self-control can’t be ignored. In fact, there is growing research on “self-regulation”—people’s ability to stop, think, make a plan, and control their impulses.

These are the same skills needed to do well in school and in life.

Researchers have become keenly interested in psychologist Walter Mischel’s famous “marshmallow study” from the 1960s in which a researcher would place a marshmallow in front of a hungry 4-year-old and tell the child that they could eat the marshmallow right then—or have two if they waited until the researcher returned. About a third of the children could distract themselves, exhibit self-control, and wait.

Followed for years, these disciplined kids … >>>


Having a Teaching System is Better than Having a Talent for Teaching

Working in Harlem under contract for three years with the New York City Board of Education taught me an invaluable lesson: Having a teaching SYSTEM is far superior to talent when a teacher faces challenging behaviors in the classroom.

The assistant superintendent and I were very impressed while observing a teacher one year. We agreed that the teacher was a “natural.” However, when I visited the teacher the following year, she told me that three boys were such challenges that she could use some assistance.

Even teachers with a “natural talent” are challenged by student behaviors that teachers in former generations did not have to deal with. To retain the joy that the teaching profession offers and to reduce one’s … >>>


What Makes a Great Teacher

Great teachers understand that they are in the relationship business. Many students—especially those in low socio-economic areas—put forth little effort if they have negative feelings about their teachers. Superior teachers establish good relationships AND have high expectations. These teachers communicate in positive ways, such as letting their students know what the teacher wants them to do, rather than by telling students what NOT to do.

Great teachers inspire rather than coerce. They aim at promoting responsibility rather than obedience because they know that OBEDIENCE DOES NOT CREATE DESIRE.

Great teachers identify the reason that a lesson is being taught and then share it with their students. These teachers inspire their students through curiosity, challenge, and relevancy.

Great teachers are inspired … >>>


Impulse Control versus Intelligence

Did you know that kids who can control their impulses do better in school?

While most people believe that intelligence plays the key role in children’s academic achievement, a study by Pennsylvania State University researchers found that the ability to self-regulate—to pay attention to a task and inhibit impulse behavior—was more important than intelligence for early academic success.

The study focused on three-to-five-year-olds and showed that preschoolers’ capacity for self-control was the best predictor of their performance in math and reading in kindergarten. Scores on intelligence tests were not as closely correlated with academic achievement.

A child’s ability to monitor his or her thinking and behavior develops rapidly during preschool. The data gives concrete support to preschool programs that focus … >>>


Class DoJo

The following request was sent me:

I would love to have your opinion on Class Dojo. It appears to be another carrot and stick approach that does NOT promote responsibility. As a resource teacher in my school board, I don’t feel comfortable telling other teachers what to do and how to teach; yet for the sake of the students, I know Class Dojo isn’t the answer. Could you please give me some advice on what to tell teachers?

Class Dojo is a classroom behavior management system where every student has his or her own avatar. All the avatars are public so that all students can see other students’ avatars. Teachers assign dojos (icons) to student avatars throughout a … >>>


Make Learning Emotional

Logic prompts people to think. Emotions prompt people to act.

This fact applies to learning, also. If you want students to remember what you teach, touch an emotional chord by painting a picture or by telling a story. Or, even better, get the students involved by acting out a story or doing some sort of hands-on activity that gets them involved in what you’re teaching.

There is a greater chance of the learning staying in long-term memory using these approaches than when the lesson just focuses on information itself.

What have you done in your classroom or home environment to make learning more emotional for your students or children? Please share your ideas in the comments below.… >>>