Dan Jackson, Stephanie Howell, Tara Ruckman
This transcript was computer generated and might contain errors.
Dan Jackson: We're high and thank you for coming and joining me today. I've got a super special treat. I'm gonna be sitting down with one of my fellow Google, innovators Stephanie Howell and her friend Tara Ruckman. They're gonna be talking to us about how we can control the chaos in our classroom. But before I get to that, these girls are also going to be presenting at the effective teaching conference in January, which I am running. If you would like to come along to that, we've got some fantastic presenters and you can go and learn more about it at teacherspd.net/conference. The tickets are just two bucks, but right now I want to dive into this interview with these two ladies because they have such a wealth of knowledge to help us to control the chaos in our classroom.
Dan Jackson: Okay, thank you so much for coming and joining me to chat about your brand new book that's been released and they're doing very well. I've seen it on Amazon with this book controlling the chaos, Can you just give us a very brief blurb, Why should someone go and get your book? Let's start there.
Tara Ruckman: I mean just the resources and it alone so each chapter has multiple resources and there's oh a link there that has lots of free x free access to resources of activities that are already created for teachers to be able to take into the classroom and walk away and use today. So not only are you getting the book, the knowledge, the things that we share. But you're also getting outside of the book, This link that directly takes you to these resources that you can take today, take tomorrow, and, and implement directly into the classroom to help control the chaos.
Dan Jackson: That sounds like a good play. I think to get lots of resources, lots of things to help you. It's gonna help you to control the chaos in your classroom. Sounds great. I've already got it though, so I'm good, but I'll definitely be recommending it to all the people who are listening to go and grab this book. It's a fantastic book. I'm almost finished it. I've been reading it over the last couple of weeks so highly recommend it. Now in the book Girls, You talk about blended learning and you also talk about executive functioning skills for us, in Australia, can you just clarify
Dan Jackson: See what you mean by these terms, because, as I've read your book, I like, okay, it's good. I know exactly what you're talking about. You have a nice little list of your executive functioning skills you're so in intro, give a really good description of what blended learning is but the people here in Australia. I know I heard a lot of, you know the idea of blended learning being threat around doing covid and teachers were generally talking about half your class. That's not at school and half a class that is at school and trying to manage that which is an absolute nightmare to manage. I've had to do that and that was not fun. So he just clarifying exactly what you mean by blended learning and exactly functioning skills. And then yeah, then we'll actually know exactly what we're talking about as we go forward.
Stephanie Howell: Yeah, so in the States, what Dan was talking about, where students were home in some students were at school, we call that hybrid learning in the States. So I do want to definitely clear that up because when he was talking, I was like, Oh that's not our definition. So when it does come Into learning. There's a couple different models that teachers can choose from and a lot of times it just kind of depends on What are the students expected to do. So you always want to go back to What is the standard? And What is that expectation that we're expecting students to learn? Sometimes it is station rotation where students are traveling in the classroom.
Stephanie Howell: To different stations within your class. So there might be a teacher-led station that you are directing. There might be an independent where they are practicing those skills. There could be a digital content where they are going online and maybe they're watching in a puzzle video or they are using a different platform to practice what they're learning or watching some type of video. And then they're at the last one is kind of the sea station where students are maybe working on different projects. They're working collaboratively.
Stephanie Howell: And I like to call it was like the Four Seasons, but then, like the seas just kept building, it's collaboration communication, maybe they're working on. Different skills that they need those soft skills for the real world on a certain project. And so those are like the four main components of station rotation. But you take those four components and you apply them kind of at any other model. So another model is like the playlist model where students will have like a must-do can-do aspire to do checklists maybe on that playlist. And again you're kind of as an educator you're thinking about Okay what is that teacher station? What is the students going to do digitally but also offline? Because you want to keep that balance within those different activities too.
Stephanie Howell: Another station is like a roadmap station, where students are traveling among different activities and they're very chunked to get to that finish line. So you are using a lot of backwards design when it comes to maybe that model or using like the grid method. So a lot of different names when it comes up to blended learning. And again, it could be very guided where there's a timer set or it could maybe be more self-paced for students are traveling along. A lot of times that depends on What is the task that I'm expecting my students to do? And it kind of depends to maybe on the teacher or different things like that. But what we learned is we were trying to do blended learning and we were leaving out the executive functioning skills. And chaos chaos was just overtaking these classrooms.
Stephanie Howell: And what? I ended up doing as I started to reach out to Tara and I was like Hey I think we're missing executive functioning skills and I think I've heard that you're pretty good at them. So that's how Tara and I kind of connected was I was kind of that blended learning like Oh I know how to get this going. I've got all the ideas until the kids came into the picture and then it was like all my theory didn't work because they were lacking in some of these executive functioning skills. So Tara came into the picture.
Dan Jackson: Okay.
Tara Ruckman: Yep. So
Stephanie Howell: And we started to co-teach in co-coach.
Tara Ruckman: so,
Dan Jackson: Before we go a little bit further, this, I blended learning that he's essentially students being online at some point during your lesson. And then they're also being stuff that you as a teacher, kind of sitting down and running as well. Was that kind of a correct basic definition?
Stephanie Howell: Yeah, on and offline activities.
Dan Jackson: Yeah. Okay?
Stephanie Howell: Yep, yep.
Tara Ruckman: Yeah.
Dan Jackson: And they don't have to be online away from me. They can be online in my classroom.
Stephanie Howell: Yeah, and then there's a ton of different models to support a teacher, when crafting those lessons, a lot of different structure but again where we were struggling was that executive functioning skill, where I'm gonna have Tara take that lead.
Dan Jackson: Yeah.
Tara Ruckman: So what we mean when we're talking about executive functioning is those mental processes that we think about as self regulation, maybe it is remembering instructions juggling multiple tasks in planning organization, flexibility metacognition, working memory, goal directed persistence. So all of these things you know that we take together these processes that are minds, you know, our abilities, our flexibility. Like when you come into the classroom, if you are not able to navigate multiple different stations with organization, get packing.
Tara Ruckman: Your stuff moving from station to station getting control of that emotional response. Like when you're frustrated because it is, sometimes a fast-paced environment that we're going through the classroom. So keeping up with that fast pace, are you able to manage those emotions and stay gold? Gold directed and oriented in the classroom. So basically, it's the set of mental processes that we as old adults, right? Like I think, maybe I realize I was lacking in some of these, my freshman year in college, when suddenly, I went to college and I had to organize all of these things on my own and I was like, Whoa. I used to get the teacher that helped me, tell me when my assignments are due and help me manage my time because I'm in class all the, you know, every day and we worked on it piece by piece. Now, I'm going and I'm getting this lecture and then I don't
Tara Ruckman: Have class for another week. So I have to figure out when how I need to get that assignment done. So it's turned in in a week, right? So, like all of these things we use as adults that we don't think about. But when we're in that blended learning model in the classroom, it starts to come into play a lot earlier in our education versus we didn't. When it was more teacher directed instruction in front of the classroom, Our students didn't have to navigate these things, these different models. They weren't presented with setting a goal because we had a teacher that was standing in the front of the class that was leading. So as we have gone into more of that student ownership and different blended learning models. These, we found out that some of these skills were really missing with our students and how can we build these skills in order to navigate the classroom and control the chaos?
Dan Jackson: Yeah, and I can see very clearly how something like a lack of self-control for students or lack of time management. You're going to lead into quite a chaotic classroom in front of you as students, get distracted. Because there's not yeah, like you were saying There's no one who's kind of controlling the whole environment at once you actually want students really doing different things. At the same time, it's going to be slightly more noisy. Generally speaking, I would imagine. Yeah, as we're doing this, I know from my classroom, I like noise. So it's okay unless they do something that specifically, you know, requires a lot of focus in which case I'll purposely try and reduce the noise around them because I find. Yeah, it's a lot easier to focus when there's not 600 things happening the distracting. So have you girls, when you've been implementing what you've written in this book? Have you actually seen some success stories? Like it had? How can you tell us? Tell us what results you've gotten from the strategies that you've implemented.
Stephanie Howell: Yeah. First a lot of our teachers wanted to give up on blended learning because they were used to being the person up in the stage and kind of leading the learning, but yet, We weren't seeing a whole lot of student growth in that old model of kind of that direct instruction or personalized learning. And so, when you are able to blend and learn and use those different self-pacing strategies, you're able to meet every single student where they are. and, What we started to realize is, we teamed up with a team and they were willing to try anything, which is amazing. If you can find that team of people, you hang on, to those people. And so we went in and weekly we would plan out different lessons that focused on executive functioning skills. But where we started was we first started with a Google form.
Stephanie Howell: And on the Google form, we had our friend, Luis Pertuss, who's in Colombia it's always fun to connect with other Google innovators, he set up the magic. I don't even know what he did on our spreadsheet, but he had it calculating. And so, we were able to give this form to students and they were able to pick and choose their strengths, their weaknesses. And from there, we were able to just see where the students were strong and where they're weakness was when it came to executive functioning.
Stephanie Howell: And so, what was interesting with that group? Is that group of teachers? The team of teachers was really focused on building that student's goal setting. And so from about August until January, everybody score on the Google form was pretty high on goal setting. So the kids had a lot of data chats, they felt comfortable making goals, they would have pretest and then, they would set goals for their post tests. So we got to see that score. Be really high, which I think was exciting for those teachers to really focus and go, hey, we've been doing that this whole year and to see that growth. And so based on that, Google form, I think our top ones was time management. Stress. And
Stephanie Howell: Flexibility. Those are like our top three areas of where students kind of needed some more support, which really time management made complete sense when it comes to blended learning. Because if you're expecting kids to self-pace, they've got to be able to manage their time. And when you when they don't, you have more missing assignments. You have more things that are going to drive you crazy as a teacher. And so what we started to do is we started to really start to teach these kids, how to use these different executive functioning skills and so we would do different time management tasks with them. It was very interactive and our book has a lot of those different activities along with the website that is linked in the book. And so you're able to go in and see what we created, because we don't want it to just be sitting yet. We wanted the students to actually do some activities. So, one week it was on organization.
Stephanie Howell: The kids had to clean out their book bags and we found a lot of things in there and then they had to kind of look at a partners and see. Did they use that? That skill of organization and are they organized? We went through the digital life and Are you organized in your Google Drive, your email and setting up those different reminders and that kind of stuff as well. And so, when we were able to focus on those different skills, we gave a post test at the end of the year, the same Google form and we got to compare those skills from the pre to the post assessment and see those students go up. They were able to write a reflection about their scores and we were able to also kind of communicate with families that we were working on executive functioning skills and here's how you can help at home if you wanted to
Tara Ruckman: So I think that piece of all of what we did in that post is where we really start to see the success. You know, when you ask that question, What success have you seen kids were able to talk about if they miss an assignment?
Tara Ruckman: I didn't manage my time. Well what could I do differently next time and we're able to have those conversations to talk through it. You know, what, why weren't you able to get started on that task right away? Our I wasn't able to so they were able to ask for help when they needed it. Um, and we saw a dramatic increase in our i-ready scoring. So every single one of the students that were participating in adult gold directed executive functioning where they emailed, they created a goal on Monday. They emailed at home
Tara Ruckman: On Friday. They would say whether they met their goal. We had 100% of our students meet their expected growth on their I-READY. Scores, I ready is a system that we use in this in our school district, that is monitoring five, domains in reading and five domains in math. So that success alone in meeting that expected growth for a hundred percent of our students. I think there was between a hundred and ten and a hundred and twenty students. That we were doing this with was enough to say, We are doing something really good here because these exit executive functioning skills are really like supporting our students. And that like how I manage my time to be able to complete those lessons, to then, be able to lift up my scores. So we were seeing a direct result, academically and also social emotionally
Dan Jackson: yeah, so it sounds like the kids were all improving both in their academic studies and with the executive functioning skills,
Dan Jackson: That using that survey is that the survey that I have linked here that you've shared with me, I'm going to share with everyone else yet. Great. Fantastic. So you'll if you're listening but there'll be a link where of put up, where you can go and have a look at that Google form and possibly make a copy and all that kind of stuff. So you guys can also use it. But I just love the fact that you're having these meta conversations with students about, you know, they're executive functioning skills and how they're going and when why they're not, you know, moving forward, which areas are there weaknesses? All that kind of stuff. I love those conversations with students. I've always found them to be very helpful and impactful for them as they go forward and they make plans about how they get actually improve in skill sets that they're struggling with. And I think I've always said I have great impact and I'm not surprised to then hear from you, ladies that and that's what you're doing and that's what's happening that you're seeing this great impact. And it means that, you know, the teachers are also focusing on at the students are focusing on it as well as the other you know, the academic side.
Dan Jackson: Things. So I think that's fantastic. So, within your book, you cover a lot of content in your book, which I think is wonderful. But today, we're going to actually focus in and do a bit of a deep dive into the working memory, which is not one of the ones you said, was Yeah, on everyone's list of. Yeah, we must do this. We'll deal with stress and we're gonna do with time management and stuff, but I love talking about memory. So this is what can you just give us a brief? Kind of summary of what we would learn if I went and read that that chapter on working memory, like Is it just going to talk to me about short-term and long-term memory and how to actually transition? Content knowledge or something, from short, to long term. Or What do you like? Is it completely load theory. What have you actually used in this chapter? That help us.
Tara Ruckman: So we talk about, you know, rope memorization and we talk about long-term memory, you know, there's three real multi-store models of memory. It's our sensory register our short-term memory, which is like our working memory and our long-term memory and our goals as teachers, right is to get them to store in this information in the long-term memory so that they don't walk out of our classroom at the end of the year and they don't they haven't, they're not prepared for the next year and things that they're learning because that short-term memory was not translated. So, when we think about memory we think that like we can only store a short. Maybe I don't know probably anywhere between five and ten elements in our short-term memory at one time, right?
Tara Ruckman: So, breaking down information and transforming it and manipulating it to get it to stay in that long-term memory because we have a limited capacity in our working memory.
Tara Ruckman: So in our book we talk about different ways to increase that you know getting getting those elements from our short-term memory to our long term memory. So is that providing sensory opportunities? Is that using a retrieval wheel or slots learning space learning over time, right? Where maybe on Mondays of of every month we are talking about going back. So if I'm working on Module 2 on Monday, we we are going to take 10 to 15 minutes to talk about module one. And on Thursday, we're going to then be like talking about some of those foundational skills or pre teaching so how we like space out. So we don't just teach module two once and then we're done, right?
Tara Ruckman: We get to the next month, how do we continue to like build little bits and pieces into that? So then it goes and make sure that we're getting it into our our long-term memory versus our working memory. So in our book we talk about we provide several deep resources that are you are able to support that slot or space learning over time to get that into the long-term memory.
Stephanie Howell: Yeah. And another strategy that we like to use is using the dust of knowledge which is kind of another study and another resource. And what you do with the death of knowledge is the first stage is recall and so we've got to build in those recall for students to be able to do some of those harder tasks. And so when it comes to that web stuff of knowledge, we're really diving into. Okay, here's the recall.
Stephanie Howell: And the students are able to do this this and this, and then we're moving into that next stage, which is then application. Where, for example, if we're talking about math, maybe the students are recalling their multiplication facts. Then when they get into application, they're, they're using like a word problem, but if your students are struggling with their basic facts, they're still going to struggle with that word problem. And so, really again it kind of goes really well together and then strategic thinking is level three and so maybe students are now they have a problem and they have to find the air. Where did this other student make this air in this problem and can you justify what air they made? And then you're at that final step of dok and that's level four and that's your extended thinking and now maybe it's like kind of like a Would you rather type question? Where students are have multiple options, it's like which ones belong, which ones don't belong and they're justifying and they're explaining their reasoning. But again, it builds off each other.
Stephanie Howell: If the students don't have that basic recall level, they're going to struggle with those other tasks, but you can't not just do those other tasks as well, it all kind of builds up within those different levels too.
Tara Ruckman: I think that retrieval practices like are one thing that we're not taught in college, right? We're not really taught retrieval practices in our education when we go to college or university. So us as teachers, how do we help the? How do we develop retrieval practices in our classroom to support our students in their working memory? Getting that long-term memory piece?
Dan Jackson: Yeah and I like I do a lot of talk about cognitive load theory and how that all works for storing memory and stuff. Done a couple times on the podcast on these episodes that I do and I I love how it works and understanding how we actually go from your four or five items that you can manage when you're brand new to a topic and you've got a constantly working on actually understanding the basics and they're doing that recall process to cement the beginnings of understanding to them. Be able to move into the application. And there's higher order, thinking skills and the deeper learning that happens as a result of of that end product and to know that the kids can't do that, they can't do that higher order thinking If they don't have the foundational understandings, I think it's really pivotal for teachers to understand then what's happening in their classroom because yeah, the
Dan Jackson: Called Controlling the Chaos and you see the chapter about How about memory in your life. What's that got to do with controlling the chaos in my classroom set? How does this impact the chaos? I had your book is all about controlling the chaos. How does you know, memory and executive functioning skills? I can see how some of them really clearly. Do like things like self management time management. I can see that. Particularly in blended learning. Yeah. That's a cause chaos if we don't train that but stuff like you know, working memory. How does that impact? Our classroom and managing that that's going on for us.
Tara Ruckman: I'm a behavior specialist. So we oftentimes as teachers, right? We we teach the rules.
Tara Ruckman: Once in the beginning of the year and then three weeks in. We're like, what I taught them. That, and the first week of school, the rules, are I taught them how to submit something in Google classroom or Why don't they they know it. Why don't, why don't they just follow that direction? So it kind of working memory, like understanding that's teaching those rules. Teaching those expectations in that first week of school. That's something that's ongoing. We're not just gonna stand in front of the class and teach thoughts and then expect them to know it and and be able to apply it. So, definitely working memory goes for like those, the standing operating procedures in your classroom. So if you are
Tara Ruckman: You know, if Stephanie teaches tech on how to submit Go through Google classroom and they don't remember all those procedures and we don't go back and revisit them. We don't go back and practice them. We don't go back and apply them. Then you have five students getting up going Mrs, Ruckman, Mrs. Howell I don't know how to or I didn't. So, really, when your work talking about working memory, it's not just about academics, but it's about all of the standing operating procedures and the things that you do, the navigating, the blended learning models in your classroom if they practice it once and never did it again and then you expect them six weeks in to do it, are they going to be able to? So how do we take that working memory and apply it to our standing operating procedures to get our classroom a lot smoother running
Stephanie Howell: Yeah. And another thing when it comes to working memory is those create clear routines, you want to reduce that multitasking? And so, when it comes to blended learning, you want to make sure that you have a to-do list, you have, maybe a road map where you're able to chunk directions. So students can follow. Okay, Step one, I'm done. Step two is here. Step three is here because when you give them those multiple directions, students are going to have more chaos in your classroom because they're like, I read this paragraph and I don't know what to do. And so maybe using some of that dual coding as well to kind of help break down those directions for students working memory to go. Okay, I did step one now. Step two, now three and now four and so that kind of reduces their stress as well.
Dan Jackson: Yeah, I think as well with the working memory in the processes for how learning works if you're throwing kids into the deeper end without actually making sure they're cemented that beginning stuff, that leads to more behavior issues anyway because they're actually getting them, they can't do it. And so as soon as kids can't do things, if they see it as too hard. Yeah. That leads to Well, it's too hard for me. I suck at this. I'm gonna do something else. We're gonna talk to my friend over here. Mrs. Over there, chatting to another student. So we're gonna see people like 20 minutes possibly yes. The teachers involved with 30 40 other students in the classroom so I can see what there's lots of ways. I think how things like working memory, actually going to impact the environment in your classroom. And I think what you Is are putting together in this book and the resources on the website are super fantastic for a teacher who is listening to this podcast or watching this on YouTube?
Dan Jackson: What should they do this week? Other than going and buying a book and reading it which they should all do? What else what else can they do this week maybe to help with working memory or just as begin to get the students going with their executive functioning skills?
Stephanie Howell: Yeah. My first step would be suggested is to take that Google form that we're going to link in the show notes and take it for yourself,…
Dan Jackson: Yeah.
Stephanie Howell: think of yourself as a learner. Think of yourself as a adult, and how would you answer those questions and then look at your results. Do you agree that you might struggle with organization? Just looking at your desk. Do you agree that you struggle with time management? Because you're always turning in things like and really start to look at it through your own lens and kind of just saying, Okay, this is where I struggle as a teacher because if that's where you struggle, you might be having your students also,
Stephanie Howell: Needing that extra support where you're lacking to. So that's like the best places to kind of start is you take that Google form, dive into one of the executive functioning skills, where you're showing some weakness and and think about How can I improve that for my own well-being? And then when you feel comfortable enough, Give that form to your own students. If they're young, maybe you do it with like a couple students where you answer for them and you're just kind of talking it through with them or you have a parent, maybe fill it out, but that would be My suggestion is Start small and start with you. Where do you struggle? The most? Because even adults struggle with executive functioning skills and it's just skills that we have to work on. And the great thing about it is they are skills and they are able to be work on.
Tara Ruckman: Yeah, 100%. Um, we're not born with executive functioning skills, they're all skills that we develop. And I think where another place to start is, is your own mindset. So, this is a little bit of a mindset shift. You know, in in our first chapter, we talk about See, see the deficit. So, when we're thinking about that one student, are they messy? So instead of thinking about the messy student, right? We're thinking that that student needs support with organization skills. So,
Tara Ruckman: Thinking, we see the student as disturbing the classroom. Well, maybe that student. It's, it's not, he's not doing it on purpose, he needs support and emotional control and impulse control. So think about that one student and try shifting your mind instead of the adjective that you used to describe that student because I'm sure everybody can think of one student in their mind, through their teaching career, that they may have used a descriptor for, right and flip it.
Tara Ruckman: Take that descriptor and say What skills do I need to teach that student instead of using that descriptor and start shifting that mindset of? You know, this student really struggles with task initiation, the student really struggles. They, they have it today. But tomorrow they're going to forget or by Friday when they come back to the class when I review it, they have no clue. So maybe we need to work on that working memory piece and how and retrieval practices with that student. So,
Tara Ruckman: Mindsets and then being self-aware and starting to use that language in your classroom as well getting students like used to the vocabulary so that they start becoming self-aware. So then you can start practicing these skills.
Dan Jackson: Stephanie and Tara, I want to thank you so much for giving up your time to come and chat with me and to share your knowledge with all the teachers. Hopefully this goes out to teach us all over the world. So thank you just. I think it's amazing that teachers give up their time to chat to me. But then also yeah you put in your time to write a book which I understand it's very time consuming and when you're working and teaching and also trying to get that done and you know parenting or anything like that. I just want to thank you so much for everything you're giving back to teachers and I think it's amazing what you're doing and I do I highly recommend this book to everyone that I meet to go and read controlling the chaos by Stephanie Howell and Tara Ruckman. Go and find that book. It's on Amazon, go and get yourself a copy and go and visit their website and stuff too. I'll give you all the links and stuff to their website on the Show Notes page. And if you want YouTube, it'll be right underneath the video.
Stephanie Howell: Thank you.
Tara Ruckman: Thank you for having us.
Dan Jackson: Well I think it was fantastic to sit down and learn from both of those. Ladies I think they've got a wealth of knowledge. That really is made a great impact. I've loved reading the book myself and I want to encourage you to go to Amazon search for control the chaos and you can grab yourself a copy of that book. Get on Kindle, get the hard copy, whatever you can grab because it is fantastic. Read it over the summer and come back. After the break ready to inflate. A lot of stuff that's in there and of course don't forget to come and sign up for the conference that effective teaching conference that's happening in January. Both these ladies will be presenting there along with John Hattie and Jay McKee and Casey Bell and Holly Clark and so many others. So make sure you come and sign up there. You just go to teach Pd.net slash conference and you'll be able to register for the conference there to just two dollars and you get access to a whole five days worth of professional development. If you're gonna grab, you know, the form that we talked about in this
Dan Jackson: just go to Teachpd.net, Click on the podcast in the menu section and you'll be able to find everything there. Or if you're watching it on YouTube, just click the link below. I'll make sure it's all there in the description. Well, I hope to chat you again next week. See you.