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Professional Opinion

Getting back to B.A.S.I.C.S. in teaching

Don’t lose sight of the classroom fundamentals
L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.
L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.

With a windstorm of constant changes in education, are we forgetting some of the basics? I’m not talking about readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic.

Have we, through the fog of technology and the pressures of highstakes testing, simply forgotten some of the basic concepts that veteran educators once took for granted?

B: Behavior expectations

There was a time when the goal was to maintain a quiet classroom with students sitting quietly in their seats and listening to every word the teacher spoke. Good classroom management would reap a well-behaved classroom.

Although I agree that classroom management continues to be of prime importance (defined as a set of established classroom routines and procedures), we are now looking at behavior expectations from a different perspective.

We want our students up and moving. We want them engaged in learning. We want them talking and debating. Students should be working collaboratively. Yes, we need classroom management now more than ever but we need to redefine what a well-behaved classroom may look like.

A: Active learning

Active learning is not only “hands-on” experiences, but also “minds-on experiences.” Our students need to be thinking, problem-solving, creating and debating. Technology can create an awesome active learning experience, if used correctly.

Get the students involved in making wildflower and leaf portfolios, presenting live how-to seminars and coding robots—those are the kind of active learning experiences that we need in our “new” basics.

S: Student voice

Students need to feel they matter, that they have a say in their future and are being heard. It is not difficult to give students a voice in their own learning experiences. It can be as easy as letting them choose which project to display during an open house.

Students should be able to choose ways of sharing their knowledge by choosing projects and assignments that best suit them. Students should have the opportunity to voice their strengths and weaknesses. Can you hear “student voice” in your classroom?

I: Instructional variety

Research shows that students need variety in their instruction to maintain motivation, relevance and interest. Unfortunately many teachers have traded variety in instruction for a “drill-to-kill” approach geared to high-stakes testing.

When thinking about creative instruction, technology offers us the opportunity to break down the walls of our classrooms and enter the global world of learning. It is our responsibility to support every student in meeting rigorous learning goals. That alone requires instructional variety.

C: Curriculum connections

In our internet world, today’s students see connections in concepts that we had never dreamed about. They see that a video game about the French Revolution can also be a simulation where they control the outcome and imagine how the world would change based on their alteration of history.

We need to help all our students see a connection between what they are learning and the real world. Our brain naturally attempts to make sense out of new learning by making connections.

We can aid our students in meeting their potential by providing challenging learning experiences that are active, motivational and cross-disciplinary.

S: Safety

Psychologist Abraham Maslow understood the need for safety when he published his now famous “Hierarchy of Human Needs.” Maslow said students’ basic needs must be met before they can reach their learning potential.

We have drills for everything from fire to intruders. While we hope that practicing these drills gives our students a sense of safety, sometimes the opposite is true. We must be cognizant of students’ awareness of social issues and consistently provide the appropriate amount of compassion.

We must also talk about the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying. Students must have a sense of school safety free from concerns and pressures. Our schools should always provide a safe harbor for our children.

L. Rob Furman is principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.