As readers know, I’ve been trying-out some lessons and classroom practice related to self-control, goal-setting, and visualizing success this semester (and I’ve got a few more I’ll be doing during the second semester). I thought people might find an update interesting/useful:
I’ve been having students in both my mainstream ninth-grade English class and my Intermediate English class visualize being great readers, writers, and speakers twice-a-day for thirty or so seconds each. It’s voluntary, though everyone has to be silent and motionless during that time. About forty percent of the students in my ninth-grade class say they’re doing it, while seventy percent in my Intermediate English class say they are. You can read more about it here.
I’ll be doing cloze and reading fluency assessments in about two weeks, and it will be interesting to see how the “visualizers” compare with the “non-visualizers.” I’ll certainly share the results here. No matter what the assessments say, I’m finding that taking the thirty second break prior to beginning a new activity is a good focusing exercise — even for the students who don’t actually participate in the visualization exercise. I can notice a difference in general concentration on class work when I forget to take the time to do it.
I used the points system I tried last year (see Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?) for only the first week of school — my ninth-grade English class really showed a lot of self-control. However, the first week after Winter Break was a little tough, especially because we have gotten some challenging new students who entered the class. So, last Monday I temporarily re instituted the points system, saying that I would take people off of it individually as they demonstrated the ability to control themselves. Most students are already off of it, and the rest will be soon. However, a key to it working last week, I think, was just asking students to take a couple of minutes and write down what they remembered what they learned about the “Don’t Eat The Marshmallow” lesson (see “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One)). I then asked them to share with a neighbor what they wrote.
Here is what one student wrote, and it’s representative of what most shared:
I remember on the video that the little kids were doing different things to distract themselves from eating the marshmallow. And the kids that ate the marshmallow didn’t do as well in school as the kids who didn’t eat it did.
I think just taking a few minutes to remember what they learned in that lesson was equally as effective as the new classroom management system in helping them to be more focused. It’s a reminder of the importance of periodic review of key concepts.
We’ve been doing some goal-setting exercises in class. Students set goals for the end of the semester — which is in two weeks — so we’ll see how that goes (It’ll also be interesting to see if the “visualizers” have any better success achieving them).
Since we did the first lesson, I had read about a new related study (see Intriguing Study On Self-Control). That study highlighted the importance of having a friend to support you in achieving your goal, and the potential effectiveness of having people identify ways they could reward themselves if they achieved them.
I did have students “buddy-up” and talk about how they feel they had been doing in working towards their goals. We’ve done it for a few minutes once-a-week. And last week I had them think and write about how they might reward themselves. Here are a few things they came up with:
I can reward myself by playing games for an extra hour and have nothing to worry about.
I would reward myself with some chocolate.
I’d probably go a day without doing anything.
I don’t know if these activities will have any measurable effect on the data that we’ll see in assessments over the next few weeks. Either way, though, I believe students are learning some skills related to self-control and goal-setting that will help them throughout their lives, and it’s clearly contributing to a more positive classroom climate right now.