Two weeks ago I started doing the SAT Question of the Day with my iPhone app. My son Jamin, a junior in high school, has been in AP and SAT testing mode and I wanted to connect with what he’s experiencing. Most days I get them correct (Yesss!), but some days I need to use the “hint” button to help me. Just knowing the hint button exists makes me feels better. In many classrooms, coaches play the role of the hint or tip button. Many of us have the opportunity to see teaching and learning in multiple grades and classrooms within the same day so we amass tips as we learn from the best.

Here are three I learned and shared this week:

*Trying to increase your positive noticing? Here’s a tip. When monitoring your ratio of positive comments to redirects, it can be helpful to place pennies in the lefthand pocket and move them to the righthand pocket as you positively notice a particular student. It’s not something you would use very often, but can work in the beginning to establish a new habit.

*Looking to shorten minilessons? Here’s a tip. If teachers pose a question such as, “What might be a good name for our cranky character?” and call on a few students, that eats up precious minilesson time for a fairly insignificant detail. Instead, try a chorus response where students respond at the same time in a regular speaking voice. A teacher catches 2-3 responses, the students all had a chance to share and the minilesson moves on. If you missed this April post from the Two Writing Teachers blog regarding mini lessons, it was a good one:

Top Ten Ways to Minilessons

Another classic is Shari Frost’s Choice Literacy, “Putting the Mini Back in Minilessons.”

Put the Mini Back in

*Working to help a writer find a topic? Here’s a tip. When I approach a student who is searching for a topic by sharpening his pencil, using the restroom and peeling crayons, I find this is a good starter question.

Me: Are you more an outside kid or an inside kid?
Kid: Inside kid.
Me: What do you like to do right when you get home?
Kid: Play XBox.
Me: Besides playing XBox, because those can be harder experiences to write about, what do you do?
Kid: Shrugs.
Me: If I could see you at your house, what would I see you doing?
Kid: Shrugs. Playing legos.
Me: Seriously? I love legos. Have you ever thought about writing about that?

Another good one is, “If you could be somewhere else right now, where would you be?”

*And completely unrelated to coaching, did you know that if you cover guacamole with about a half inch of water it will provide a barrier to the air and keep it from turning brown? I love great tips!

What tips have you been learning and sharing this week?

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