Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 4

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Welcome back! I'm linking up with the Primary Gal for another chapter of Learn Like a Pirate! This chapter is all about improvement focus vs. grade focus

Solarz writes, "When students focus on grades rather than learning, extrinsic motivation drives their performance." It's the whole "you behave and you get a sticker" mentality. When the focus is on the external motivating factor (grades, stickers, treasure box junk—I HATE treasure box junk) instead of growth and internal motivating factors, kids (and adults) get into the habit of learning it just enough to do well on the test or pass the class then forget it all. When the focus is on improvement, the competition comes from within. "Assessment and feedback, rather than a focus on grades, pushes students toward constant growth."

As a kinder teacher, I feel that I am constantly providing feedback. I work with small groups nearly all day which provides ample opportunities for feedback. What I need to work on is teaching my littles how to provide feedback to each other in kind, helpful ways.

Solarz explains how he handles behavior with feedback rather than consequences. Expectations are given and class rules are known. When there is a behavior issue, he follows 3 steps:
  1. a warning
  2. a behavior point
  3. a Work-it-Out ("think sheet" or "reflection sheet")
By beginning with a warning, calmly and as a teaching point, students have an opportunity to make adjustments to their own behavior without it escalating. A behavior point is a recorded 2nd warning. And a think sheet gives the student a chance to take a break, think about it, and plan a better course of action. When the goal is on improvement rather than punishment or consequences, students are able to make adjustments to their behavior while maintaining support from their teacher and without power struggles. Solarz says, " When you constantly provide feedback and stay aware of escalating situations, most problems can be prevented or caught early on so that they don't require a consequence." 

This chapter also discusses the value of closing the lesson and allowing reflection time for students. In his 5th grade class, Solarz used ePortfolios for students to explain their thinking and share what they learned. In a kindergarten classroom, I would need several aides to make that happen. BUT, exit slips or reflection journals could do the same thing, just on a more kinder-friendly level. 

In our classroom, we have a Super-Improver Chart (thank you Whole Brain Teaching). When a student has improved on something (using their words, mastering a sight word level, finally getting those math concepts, lining up without creating chaos—yes, I had THAT friend) they can add a sticker to their improver chart. When they get 10 stickers, they move up a level. This was our chart mid-year.


The kids and I both loved it. We focused on growing and competing with ourselves, rather than with each other. I plan on doing it again next year. It really helps me to look for what is improving (the positives) and not focus on what needs to be improved (the negatives).

What do you do to focus on growth rather than extrinsic rewards like grades?

Stop by next week for Chapter 5 and see what other bloggers have to say about this week's chapter over at the Primary Gal.


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