Book Review: Understanding by Design

In the ever-changing world of curriculum, technology and standards, today’s teachers face numerous challenges that many educators of the past did not have to face. Despite those challenges, today’s teachers are still trying to reach the same goal of helping their students achieve academic success. In the book Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd Edition), authors Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe present a different approach to instructional design, which they refer to as backward design. This approach focuses on student understanding of important ideas, and it fights against the “twin sins,” as Wiggins and McTighe call them, of the more traditional instructional designs of activity-focused or coverage-focused teaching.

The premise of the book is that two seemingly different ideas are actually very much related and important to each other: design and understanding. First, the authors present the idea that teachers should design a unit in reverse, backwards from what they want the students to understand or learn as a goal or key concept. These goals or standards may be already established by the school, district or state; or the teacher can connect the instructional content to his personal teacher-created goals. After the unit goals are determined, Wiggins and McTighe advocate that the assessments should be planned before the teacher ever plans the learning activities for  the individual lessons. As a result, this backward design prompts the teacher to think about how he or she is going to assess the students’ learning before teaching the unit. The authors believe that the Understanding by Design (UbD) process moves instruction away from just “doing activities to do them.” Wiggins and McTighe also promote clarifying for students what is expected for understanding (termed enduring understandings) and what is expected for assessments (using rubrics, etc.) by stating these clearly at the beginning of each unit.

The authors’ second main idea in the backward design process is the importance that understanding plays within the learning process. Wiggins and McTighe believe that many teachers have the wrong perception of understanding, and that many teachers confuse understanding and knowledge. Wiggins and McTighe (2005) stress the importance of transfer as part of learning in order to avoid producing students that perform well in “low-level tasks but are universally weak in higher-order work” (p. 45). They believe that focusing on the goal of understanding throughout the entire design process will help teachers produce students who are able to go beyond basic answers on a test and who are also able to apply learning in other areas outside of the classroom.

After laying a strong foundation of design and understanding, Wiggins and McTighe present a three stage design process that can be used in whole or in part with any curriculum. The book and the equally valuable corresponding workbook provide numerous practical samples in many different content areas and grade levels to help teachers learn how to apply the UbD principles to their own instructional design process.

While Wiggins and McTighe may have originally written their book with the public school system in mind, there are many components of the UbD process that can be used to help reach today’s diverse group of Christian school students. Even if a teacher does not use the entire UbD concept, the ideas presented in Understanding by Design can be incorporated into any planning design or curriculum and can become a tool to help Christian school students reach academic success.

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Winter 2014 edition.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

References

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. P. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

What Is the Purpose of Education?

Martin Luther was born in 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony (Germany).  His parents wanted him to become a lawyer but, in the university, he developed a love-hate relationship with Aristotle: he believed faith was the only way to know ultimate truth, but he also believed faith was rational and could be defended with reason and logic.  Since his love for God was greater than his love of law, he ultimately left jurisprudence and became an Augustinian friar in 1505.  He had, in fact, rejected the possibility of finding truth by means of any of the infinite variations of rationalism: the reasoning of the majority, the reasoning of an elite group, or the reasoning of his own mind.  After all, there are just two choices on the shelf for acquiring absolute truth: rationalism or revelation.  Since all possible varieties of rationalism have differing internal conclusions, none can be trusted.

While in the monastery, he stumbled upon the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, with slightly different nuances in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.  He properly understood that justification is a declaration of legal righteousness based on the three phases of imputation:  Adam’s sin to my account, my sin to Christ’s account, and Christ’s righteousness to my account.  Imputation makes one righteous.  Justification declares one righteous.

By 1517 he had written his 95 theses, not to attack the Roman Catholic Church but rather to reform it from within.  This Bible truth had so revolutionized his life that he was certain that if ordinary Germans, who did not have access to a Bible, had one in the German language, many in the country would become true believers.

This conviction so inspired him that he translated the entire Bible from Hebrew and Greek into German, which stabilized and formalized the language in much the same way that Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James did in English.  Guttenberg had invented the moveable–type printing press in 1456, so it was possible to mass-produce affordable copies of the Scriptures. Some years later, however, he discovered to his dismay that Germany had not changed.

The explanation for this deep disappointment was that the people could not read, not the Bible or anything else.  This propelled him to advocate for education, and a public education at that, so that every German would be able to read the Bible for himself.  Germans would learn for themselves that Jerome’s (Vulgate)  “do penance” was not a faithful translation of metanoia, which is correctly rendered “repent”, and literally means “a change of mind” about God and about sin. They would learn that they were a kingdom of priests and that they could confess sins directly to God without a human intermediary.  They would learn that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, without any purging in Purgatory.  As a secondary benefit, they would also become better citizens, which Calvin took to its logical conclusion in Geneva.

However, to his credit Luther also perceived the danger in formal, state supported schooling.  “I am afraid that the schools will prove to be the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth”.   When the Massachusetts Bay Colony education acts were passed in the 1640’s, the 1647 contribution soon became known as the Old Deluder Satan Act.  Townships of 50 or more families were required by law to retain a teacher for the children so that they could learn to read the Bible so that they would not be deceived by that Old Deluder Satan.

And that brings us to this most foundational question: What is the purpose of education?  Succinctly, we may state that education is the process of inculcating a worldview in the mind of the student. 

Every educational curriculum has this purpose.

In a Muslim country such as Yemen, we could infer that the purpose of their education is to produce a soldier trained to eliminate unbelievers, establish a worldwide caliphate, and at death enjoy eternal bliss.  In a former Communist Bloc country such as Poland, the purpose of education appears to be identification of propensity and then specialization such as medicine, gymnastics or piano with a rudimentary exposure to the liberal arts.  In the United States, a progressive education seeks to graduate an open-minded citizen. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes.  We must tolerate anything and everything except intolerance.  This bodes ill for those of us who take John 14.6 at face value: there is no way to come to the Father but by Jesus Christ.  This is an absolute (i.e., intolerance).

What is the purpose of a Christian education?

It is TO ENGRAVE A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW IN THE MIND AND HEART OF THE STUDENT.

Notice that we used Luther’s “engrave”, which is graphic and strong.  Notice also that this worldview is more than an intellectual way of interpreting the world in which we live: it is also a matter of the heart.  It teaches how we are to live out what we believe.

How do we “engrave a Biblical worldview in the mind and heart of the student”?

We accomplish this heavenly goal by teaching them to listen and read with discernment.  The Hebrew root word commonly translated “discern” is “hear”.  Later two such uses are cited.  Teaching reading begins with decoding, but that is nothing more than a means to an end, which is reading with comprehension.  For the believer, hearing and reading with comprehension is likewise a means to an end: listening and reading with discernment.

Why is that important to us? 

Discernment is vital for every Christian.  Listening and reading with discernment is the foundation for understanding the workings of God in language, history, math, science, and the fine arts.  Northside has carefully prepared position papers explaining HOW we teach each of these disciplines.  This is not part of the American culture any more.  Teachers must deliberately think ahead and incorporate the Biblical worldview on purpose in their instruction.   Christian educators must teach discernment.

And how do we teach discernment? 

We lead students into discernment by teaching them to discern good from bad, to differentiate between right and wrong and between the genuine and the counterfeit.  When Dr. Mills stated in his devotional that Solomon did not ask for wisdom, the SCACS board to a man was jolted.  We read that Solomon’s father David had a measure of this gift (2 Samuel 14.17).  When we study the dream and request of Solomon, we find that he asked for discernment, the gift of hearing and knowing good from bad, right from wrong, genuine from counterfeit.  He did not ask for wisdom (1 Kings 3.9).  Wisdom was the result having his “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5.14).

And how do we teach students to discern good from evil?

Really, we do not and cannot do that.  The Holy Spirit uses His Word to make our students wise.  It is God’s Word that is “a discerner of the thought and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4.12).  We must challenge them to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word.  May it dwell in them richly.  Then and only then will they differentiate good from bad, right from wrong, genuine from counterfeit.

If we invested more time in reading, we would need to spend less time in “original” thinking. Selah!

 

This post is based on a devotional presented to the SCACS Executive Committee on January 8, 2015, by Dr. Huey Mills, president of South Carolina Association of Christian Schools and pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Lancaster, SC.

Practicing Affirmation (Part 3): How?

In the two previous posts in this series, we have looked at why we should practice affirmation in our classrooms and the characteristics of Biblical affirmation.

But how can teachers practice Biblical affirmation in a classroom full of sinful children?  When the papers are swirling and the schedule is full?

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

My piano teacher used to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.”  Practice implies something that we’re not good at that we need to improve.  That applies to affirming our students as much as it does to piano lessons.

Teachers are wired for correction.  Most of us have been practicing correction for years.  Red pen in hand, we are armed to correct our students into good form, proper behavior, and academic success.

Thus, affirmation does not come naturally.  We may know how to encourage our students, but affirming them Biblically is not usually our practice.

In order to affirm the work of Christ in our students, we must practice . . .

. . . knowing Christ.  Not just knowing about Him.  Knowing Him – intimately.  In order for our

students to remind us of Christ, we have to know Christ.  This requires us to feed ourselves

spiritually on a regular basis.

. . . knowing our students.  We have to sit and talk with our students, break down barriers, get

past some of the facades of immaturity and insecurity.  We have to spend time with them.

. . . prioritizing affirmation.  It needs to be more important to affirm our students than it is to

correct them.  Make a checklist.  Use sticky notes.  Mark it at the top of your lesson plans.

. . . intentionality.  In order for affirmation to be a pattern in our classrooms, we must

be intentional about it.  It will take work and probably won’t feel comfortable at first.

Create a repertoire of affirmations that you can tweak until it becomes more natural to

think in “affirmation mode.”

. . . prayer.  The key to authentic Biblical affirmation is prayer.  Ask the Lord to reveal opportunities

to see His working in your students.  Choose one student a day to pray for and to affirm.

Let the Holy Spirit lead you.

Is your classroom characterized by a culture of God-glorifying affirmation?  Do you practice affirmation?  Practice does, indeed, make permanent!

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Still Counting Sheep

A few weeks back I wrote about the negative effects of sleep deprivation, noting that research shows that many students suffer from poor sleep habits.  [See previous post here]  In this post I want to share some additional tips about the value of sleep, especially for youth.

 

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Students

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are three tell-tale signs that students are sleep deprived:

  • Waking up in the morning is a challenge and a child cannot “get going” within 15 minutes
  • Snoozing at least 2 extra hours on weekends and holidays
  • Crashing during short (10- or 15-minute) daytime car rides or other non-sleep times (school, play times, extra-curricular events)

 

Age-by-Age Daily Sleep Needs

AGE HOURS
4-12 months 12 to 16 hours
1 to 2 years 11 to 14 hours
3 to 5 years 10 to 13 hours
6 to 12 years 9 to 12 hours

 

 

So, Why So Much Sleep?

In a culture where parents are bombarded with activity options for their children – i.e. soccer, karate, music, reading, etc. – it is important that in the quest to provide a well-rounded set of opportunities, parents consider simplifying a child’s schedule to provide for an “on time arrival” to bed each evening.

Kiran Maski, a pediatric neurologist and a sleep physician, says children need sufficient sleep for physical, emotional, and cognitive health.  “Plus, insufficient sleep has been shown to be a predictor of high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, mood disorders, attention issues, and more” she continues.

 

What’s Happening During Sleep?

Research shows that during sleep, a number of critical things are taking place within the body.  Without an adequate amount of sleep, a child misses out on many of the benefits that come to the brain and body during sleep time.  So exactly what is going on for what one writer called “the busy sleeper?”

  • Brain is processing information – what one writer described as “off-line processing.” Reut Gruber, psychologist and director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab (Montreal), noted that in kids from ages 7 to 11, a good night’s sleep is directly related to higher grades in math and language.  Of course, a student’s grades in math and language are significant predictors of future learning and academic success.
  • Body is growing – research indicates that much of the body’s bone growth occurs at night during sleep.
  • Dreams – impact the cognitive and emotional development of children. Dreams affect the emotional and interpersonal relationships that children have even when they are awake.
  • Regulates appetite
  • Increases attentiveness – positively affects the “executive function” skills of a child. Sleep-deprived children often appear no differently than children with ADHD.
  • Strengthens the heart and recharges the immune system
  • Improves emotional stability – My children and grandchildren just came to visit for the Christmas season. Their trip included a time change of fifteen time zones and at least one 13-hour flight.  Sleep deprivation for just a couple of days affected the child’s behavior, appetite, emotions, etc.  By the way, it affected the same traits in the parents as well.

 

So What?

It is important that as educators we are able to assist parents with information that will help them to better direct their children’s daily activities.  Selfishly, better rested children will be better students.  But further, better rested children will be better able to presently and in the future learn and live the mind of Christ.  So let’s help parents to keep their children Counting Sheep.

 

Goldman, L.  (January, 2018).  The busy sleeper; Parents.

 

The Broad Benefits of Using a Visual Schedule

Normally when you hear about schools using a visual schedule, it is used in the context of the special education classroom. It is true that teachers use the visual schedule readily in settings where children are autistic or have other disabilities that necessitate knowing what’s next.

My discovery that all children could benefit from the visual schedule was when my own son was 3 1/2. He is a highly creative child. He is detail-oriented. He loves books. He likes to know what is next. I had heard about visual schedules, and I decided to create one for my son. It was just a piece of paper with pictures showing the order that things happened during our day. The transformation that took place from this one step was amazing. By removing anxiety about what was next, the visual schedule helped him calmly enjoy his day.

Security

The visual schedule was beneficial to my son at the preschool level, but it can easily alleviate the anxiety that elementary students of all ages experience at the start of a new year. Unfortunately, many students today even in Christian schools face a lot of insecurity at home. One of our jobs as teachers is to help them to be as secure as possible in their school setting, while also teaching them that their ultimate security is in the knowledge that God is always with them, and that even when the future is unknown, we know that He is in control.

Flexibility

Although the strength of the visual schedule is providing security through predictability, it is good to include a wild card. The wild card means that sometimes things will happen differently than the visual schedule indicates. Sometimes the wild card can be a fun, positive thing. Sometimes it will be something that has to be done. Keeping the schedule general also helps you to be able to be flexible while still helping a child have comfort in knowing what will happen next.

Adaptability

The visual schedule can be adapted to fit the needs of students from preschool through middle school. Auditory learners might remember the schedule better when the teacher reads the order of the day. As students begin to learn to read, the visual schedule can include words along with the pictures listing the day’s activities. Some students, particularly younger students during the first few weeks of the school year or semester, will benefit from seeing the list with pictures and hearing the schedule read in the morning. Students who understand what is going to happen feel secure in that knowledge.

Responsibility

Even upper elementary and middle school students can benefit from the use of a visual schedule. Fifth and sixth graders are at an age mentally and emotionally where they are about as insecure as they were when they first entered school. Things are changing, and often sixth graders are placed into a middle school environment. This can throw them off quickly. Using a visual schedule along with a printed schedule can be very beneficial for this age group. As you help them to take responsibility for their own schedule, you might want to print and laminate the visual schedule for them to put in their folder. This will not only help them to feel better about the day, but it will also reduce the time you spend in telling them what is next. It is important to offer upper elementary students security just as with lower elementary students.

If you have never implemented a visual schedule in your elementary classroom, I highly recommend that you try it in your upcoming semester or next school year. Ultimately it will save you time by reducing misbehavior often caused by the insecurity that students face.

How could you implement a visual schedule in your classroom?

Practicing Affirmation (Part 2): What?

In the previous post in this series, we looked at why we should practice affirmation in our classrooms.  However, before we can begin to affirm our students, we need to make sure that we have a clear understanding of what affirmation is and what it is not.

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . building self-esteem.  Self-esteem results in a “yawning response” to the Gospel because it builds up self, thus lessening the need for God in our lives.  Affirmation builds God-esteem.

 

Affirmation IS . . . God-centered.   Affirmation gives God the rightful glory for all good.  Affirmation says, “I see the character of God in you.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . encouragement.  Encouragement is good and important, but it’s not affirmation.   Encouragement says, “You can do it.”  Encouragement gives hope and looks forward.  Affirmation looks back and says, “Do it like that again!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . flattery.  Affirmation doesn’t say, “You’re so good at math!” or “Boy, you’re talented.”  Affirmation says, “God has gifted you with a sharp mind for math!” or “I loved the way you used the talent God gave you to glorify Him in chapel today.  That’s exactly how He wants us to use our gifts!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . student-centered.  Affirmation doesn’t focus on what the student has done.  It focuses on what God, through the Holy Spirit, is doing in the student.  Affirmation says, “I see God working in your life.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . lowering standards.  It’s about commending incremental progress toward standards that reflect that character of Christ.

 

Affirmation IS . . . detached from correction.   The further an affirmation is from a correction, the more readily an affirmation can be heard by a student.  Affirming a student can’t be “a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.”

 

Affirmation IS . . . honest.  Don’t lie.  Don’t make it up.  Even the most challenging student is made in the image of God and can, therefore, be affirmed.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find something to affirm, but never stretch the truth or patronize.

 

Affirmation IS . . . rooted in the Gospel.  The Gospel says, “You’re worse than you think you are, but God’s grace is greater than you ever imagined.”  Biblical affirmation says, “God is working in your life through the Gospel!”

 

Affirmation says, “To God be the glory!  Great things He has done!”

 

Are you affirming your students Biblically?

 

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Practicing Affirmation (Part 1): Why?

Recently, I was surprised to hear a student verbalize, “I don’t really feel like the teachers here are for us.”  Given the interactions I had seen and been part of with this student, I knew that was not true.  It was obvious that there was a “disconnect” in the communication process. So, I went on a quest to find a resource that could help me understand how to relate better to  my students, and I discovered Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation.  This short, easy-to-digest book discusses affirmation through a spiritual lens and stands as a must-read for educators.  This blog post begins a series on this concept of practicing affirmation in our classrooms.

Before we can begin, we must first define our terms.  As Christians, when we speak of affirmation, we are not speaking of the worldly concept of building self-esteem.  (We’ll talk about that in a later post.)  We are speaking of, as Crabtree distills it, “truthfully declaring by complimentary word or action the goodness of something.”  In other words, we are affirming the goodness of our students, more specifically, the goodness of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives since that is the only source of goodness in their lives.

Why should we take time to contemplate affirmation?

It satisfies the soul.  If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we are all approval-junkies.  Our students are no different.  If we are going to meet their deepest needs, we need to grant them approval – of the right things.

God affirms.  God approved his Son, not for what he did but for who he was:  “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  God commended men of faith and approved them as righteous (Hebrews 11).  Jesus affirmed Mary for her heart in Luke 10:38 -42.

It refreshes our students.  Consider your own life.  When someone affirms the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, is it not refreshing?  Our students need that same kind of refreshment!

It opens our hearts and eyes to really see our students.  Affirming students about the right things forces us to see beyond their behavior, their grades, or their attitude.  We must really know our students.

 

Stay tuned to coming posts as we consider not just why we ought to affirm our students but what it is and how to do it Biblically and consistently in our classrooms.

 

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead! (Part 1)

Jump on board the S.T.E.A.M. train!

STEAM is a hot topic in education today. Interestingly enough, it is not a curriculum but a national initiative from mathematicians, scientist, engineers, and artist to integrate learning activities based on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Education Closet defines STEAM as “an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” This approach to thinking and learning is critical to the future of our students.

STEAM encompasses five components – (Sprouts, 2011)

  • Science – observing, experimenting, predicting, discovering, questioning, and wondering
  • Technology – using tools, being inventive, identifying problems, and making things work
  • Engineering – solving problems, using a variety of materials, designing, creating, and building
  • Art – drawing, coloring, blending, imagining, charting, sketching
  • Math – sequencing, patterning, and exploring

Notice! All of the adjectives listed above are action packed! They are hands-on activities with a twist. STEAM is problem solving in a creative way. STEAM is not an additional class added to your day. STEAM should be integrated into every subject; it is cross-curricular. STEAM shows a student how every topic inter-relates. STEAM time is more than just a science experiment or an art activity or math problem; it is the integration of all the subjects. This approach resembles real life. Real life does not compartmentalize subjects. Life weaves all “subjecyd” together.

There are certain components that make up a STEAM activity –

  • Problem to solve or question to answer
  • Collaboration among students
  • Drawing/sketching ideas
  • A design challenge
  • Communication of findings
  • Reflection of solutions
  • Opportunity to redesign

The components are developing 21st century skills in each student. They learn how to problem solve, collaborate, create, reflect, and redesign. A student is never “done early” because the redesign stage makes them continually ask, “How can I improve this?”

Education Closet describes the end results “are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century!”

Stay on board as we barrel down the track full STEAM ahead in part 2 when we discuss the design challenge of STEAM.

School Culture Rewired:

How to Define, Assess, and Transform It

“The book is intended to help you better understand the general concept of school culture, learn the strengths and weaknesses of your school culture, and—perhaps most important—influence your school culture or, if necessary, shape a new one,” so write Gruenert and Whitaker in the opening of School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It (2015, p. 3). The authors explain what to do, what to expect, and what things to look out for when trying to improve or change your school’s culture.

Gruenert and Whitaker pose the fundamental question: “Is school culture something we can predict and control, or does it control us? Put another way: Is it the sentry at the door or the monster under the bed?” (p. 17). The book presents strategies for ensuring your school’s culture is healthy and adaptable to change.

Cultural changes are difficult to put into practice because they involve people, and people are not as cooperative as things. The culture of most schools is the status quo. People are satisfied with the way things are, and thus, prefer not to change. Consequently, cultural changes are more difficult to articulate, to implement, and to assess; however, when the administration and teachers collaborate and work together as a team (Amos 3:3), even though some teachers may not fully understand the worth of a change initiative, the change is usually a positive one for the school.

Gruenert and Whitaker’s observation on structural and cultural change is insightful: “The effectiveness of a new culture depends on the strength of the people behind the change and the strength of the pre-existing culture” (p. 4). Emphasizing the importance of teachers in the rewiring of a school’s culture, the authors assert that “when teachers feel they are making a professional contribution to their school, they enjoy their work more” (p. 71).

In conclusion, Gruenert and Whitaker focus on the importance of school leadership in bringing about needed change. Change never happens without a visionary leader, whether in the school or in the classroom. Effective leaders focus on future opportunities and use problems and past failures as stepping stones to future successes.

Reading this book will give insight for how to approach rewiring the culture of your school. Although Gruenert and Whitaker write from a secular perspective, Christian school educators can gain ideas for how to improve our Christian schools and better educate our students for the cause of Christ.

What are some ways you can improve your Christian school?

Resource

Gruenert, S., & Whitaker, T. (2015). School culture rewired: How to define, assess, and transform it. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Fall 2016 edition.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Counting Sheep

I recently read an article about mounting data that indicates a relationship between attention disorders and sleep problems.  While to this point no causal relationship has been discovered, it is clear that students with attention disorders also have sleep problems.  It is often forgotten that children aged 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep.

Educators have long recognized that sleep deprivation negatively affects student performance.  Research shows that students with sleep debt are impaired in many facets, including:

  • Decreased Alertness and Ability to Maintain Focus
  • Extreme moodiness and mood swings
  • Decreased energy and motivation
  • Decreased bodily control & coordination
  • Impulsiveness

 

Are you alert to students with the signs of sleep deprivation?  What can a teacher do to address the problem?  Here are several suggestions that might help.

  • Discuss the problem with parent(s)

Parents may not be aware that sleep debt is adversely affecting classroom performance or attitudes. Ask parents to consider making schedule adjustments so that the child can get more sleep.

  • Teach students (and parents) about healthy sleep habits

While some schools used classroom instruction time to stress healthy habits, often additional instruction is needed.  Often the hardest change for parents to make is limiting screen time.  Experts suggest that children should not engage in screen time—laptops, tablets, phones, etc.—for two hours before bedtime.

  • Warn parents about the negative effects of caffeine
  • Stress the importance of routine—encourage a regular bedtime and bedtime routine that foster a consistent sleep schedule
  • Encourage parents to make sure the child’s room is conducive to sleep

The room should be dark, cool and quiet.  Keep televisions, computers, and any other personal electronics out of the bedroom.  Surveys indicate that many students, even those as low as elementary age, spend hours “on screen” after laying down in bed.

The importance of establishing good sleep habits should not be undersold.  It is vital that young children establish these routines so that their transition into the teen years and then adulthood can be healthy and happy.  Adults with poor sleep habits are usually those that never establish good sleep routines as children and teens.

What other things that you suggest to parents to help a child develop good sleep patterns?