Lighting My Hair on Fire!

I know many of you have probably already read Rafe Esquith's fantastic book, Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, but until last week, I had not.

Some of my take-aways from this engaging read about Rafe and his fantastic Room 56:
  • Although I don't assign the traditional book report, I do like my students to blog about the books they read. Occasionally they use a template as we learn how to write a good book summary. This powerpoint is the one the kids liked and used most successfully. I really like the structure Rafe has his kids use when writing about a fiction novel. It includes the headings of: Protagonist, Antagonist, Conflict, Setting, Plot, Climax, Denouement, and Theme. Although I don't want to bog the kids down with having to use it often, it would be good for them to practice!
  • Similar to what Rafe does, I have a classroom economy in which the Cove Kids earn and spend Cove Cash. I LOVE the way Rafe instills the concept of rent versus ownership. His kids have to pay rent for their desks, keep their own ledger sheets of their accounts, and if they save triple their rent, they can purchase their seat (at which point it becomes a "condo"). Thrifty students begin buying up property, further learning the lesson that their disposable income increases as a result!
  • I also love the way Rafe has his kids prepare for standardized multiple choice math tests (something we all hate to do, but is a skill our kids will need at least for the near future). He provides a computation problem such as 63 + 28, and lists the letters A, B, C, D under it. He then asks the kids what answers the test makers might offer as choices and has them explain why. I like the way this strategy gets the kids really thinking about common misconceptions concerning math problems, so they will more likely avoid them when they sit down to take the test!
  • Rafe's thoughts on failure are so spot-on! "It's important to remember that we teachers individually define the word failure. In Room 56, a rocket that doesn't fly is not a failure. Failure happens only when students stop trying to solve a problem." (p.103) Love that!!
Rafe's passion for education is contagious! I love the summer break so that I can take the time to read motivational books and "light my hair on fire" again for the coming year!