Category Archives: Teaching

The SLANT Method for Student Engagement

SLANT is an acronym for 5 common visual indicators of student engagement. The indicators are:

  • Sit up
  • Lean forward
  • Ask questions about the topic
  • Nod your head
  • Track the teacher with your eyes

Generally speaking, students who exhibit even one of these 5 indicators during a lesson are engaged in the topic. This can also be generalized to any speaking situation with participants.

This sounds like a good thing to put up on the wall of my classroom.

School: 1957 vs 2007

Scenario 1

Alex gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 – Alex shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.

2007 – Police called, Alex expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 2

Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1957 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2007 – Police called, SWAT team arrives, Johnny and Mark arrested, charged with assault. Both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3

Jeffrey won’t be still in class, disrupts other students.

1957 – Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2007 – Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin, becomes a zombie, tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4

Suzie falls while running during recess and scrapes her knee. She is found crying by her teacher, Richard. Richard hugs her to comfort her.

1957 – In a short time, Suzie feels better and goes on playing.

2007 – Richard is accused of being a sexual predator and loses his job. He faces 3 years in State Prison.  Suzie undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Scenario 5

Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1957 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets out his shotgun to show Jack.

2007 – School goes into lockdown, FBI called. Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 6

Zack is walking home, trips on a skateboard left by another student in the school yard, and injures his leg. He cries out in pain.

1957 – Zack is sent to the nurse’s office where he is given a band-aid and an aspirin. The principal then gives Zack a ride home.

2007 – The principal calls 911 and Zack’s parents. Zack is rushed to the hospital and given emergency surgery. This causes chronic phantom pain in Zack’s leg and nightmares. Zack undergoes physical therapy for 4 months and sues the school for 2 million dollars plus his medical bills. Zack wins the lawsuit and decides to attend private school. Zack’s former principal is fired, goes on a blacklist, and can never hold a job in education again. The school Zack used to attend is boarded up due to insufficient funding and community ridicule.

Scenario 7

Pedro fails high school English.

1957 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2007 – Pedro’s cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro’s English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 8

Travis takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, and blows up a red ant nest.

1957 – Ants die.

2007 – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security, FBI called. Travis charged with domestic terrorism. FBI investigates family. Siblings removed from home. Computers confiscated. Travis’ Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 9

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2007 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse.  Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang.  State psychologist tells Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.  Billy’s mom has affair with psychologist.

Opera Web Standards Curriculum released!

Just released!

I haven’t the time to delve deeply, but I imagine that this will be quite excellent. The parent company – Opera – makes the Opera browser and was instrumental in the development of Cascading Stylesheets and their subsequent encapsulation as a web standard.

Advancing your Web Site: Tackling the Joys and Jitters of Javascript

Career-Technical Education Summer Conference 2008
Business & Information Technology Education
Pre-Conference Sessions
Monday, July 21, 2008; 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
The Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, Grandover East
The Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons, Greensboro, NC, USA


Ready to take the next step in web site development? A full 14% of the North Carolina e-Commerce curriculum is devoted to including JavaScript, Cascading Stylesheets, Multimedia, and Java Applets in web sites. Furthermore, students love adding pop and sizzle to their web sites, so why be afraid to add them? This workshop will gently lead teachers into an understanding of JavaScript, what it is, how to work with it, and how to include it both effectively and safely in a web site.



Partner Evaluation Worksheet

Partner Evaluation

Partner Evaluation Worksheet

A few years ago I became aware of the need for group members to evaluate each other. When students work in groups, it’s very easy for one person to do the vast majority of the work while another simply goes along for the ride contributing essentially nothing to the group project.

I find this practice unacceptable and difficult to diagnose properly. So, I created this partner evaluation form to help me weed out the lazy students and give them the grade that they earn. It’s gone through a few versions now and I’m quite proud of it. Use it to your benefit and the benefit of your hard-working students.


Course Evaluation

After 8 years of teaching, I’ve finally done it. I finally made a course evaluation for my students. After some research into the kinds of questions that are best to ask, I came up with the following list:

My Course Evaluation Questions

  1. How would you rate the classroom climate?
    • Temperature, lighting, and other classroom conditions were favorable.
    • Furniture and equipment were up to date and maintained in good working order.
  2. How would you rate the teacher?
    • The teacher was knowledgeable about the topics presented.
    • The teacher was well prepared for class.
    • The teacher was accessible when I needed help.
  3. How would you rate the course content?
    • Course assignments were interesting and stimulating.
    • Directions for course assignments were clear and easy to understand.
    • Books and handouts were helpful in completing assignments and understanding concepts.
  4. How would you rate the organization of the course?
    • The amount and difficulty of material covered was appropriate.
    • There was a coherent progression of the course from beginning to end.
    • The teacher maintained a pacing guide, calendar, or schedule of topics to be covered.
  5. How would you rate the quality of the teaching?
    • The amount and quality of feedback on assignments was appropriate.
    • The instructor answered questions carefully and completely.
    • Throughout the course, I was aware of my progress in completing assignments and understanding concepts.
  6. How would you rate the grading system used in the course?
    • The grading system was clear and fair.
    • Assignments were worth the time they took.
    • Test were at a reasonable level of difficulty relative to the material covered.
  7. How would you rate the classroom management and discipline?
    • Students were treated fairly and felt comfortable and respected.
    • Classroom and school rules were applied consistently and fairly to all students.
    • Inappropriate behavior was confronted and necessary action was taken.
  8. What aspects of the course did you like best? Why?
  9. What aspects of the course were the weakest and should be changed? How?
  10. Overall, how would you rate this course?
    • This course has increased my interest and appreciation for the subject.
    • I would recommend this course to a friend.

    My Course Evaluation Questions Online

    Since online forms are so much better at gathering and displaying information, I put these questions into Wufoo at Wufoo makes creating surveys and forms simple. A free account lets you create 3 forms with 10 questions apiece and only limits you to 100 responses within a month’s time. The 10 questions above fit quite nicely.

    Pass-Fail Course Grade Algorithm

    I routinely use a spreadsheet program to calculate my course grades. It’s just easier for me than to use the software supplied by our state which isn’t quite so user friendly. I currently use Microsoft Excel 2003 and the algorithms below are written to work with it.

    Variables and Conventions

    • S1 = Attendance Status as either “LOST CREDIT”, “CONCERN”, or “OK”
    • T1 = Appeal Status and Conditions for loss of credit as either empty (blank) or containing written conditions
    • Z1 = Course Grade in the range 0 to 100 with rounding active and 70 being the lowest passing score.
    • LC is short for Lost Credit
    • CR is short for Credit Restored



    Now, since the only practical categories are either Passing, Failing, and Lost Credit Passing (LC Passing) and the other results fall within these categories, we can simplify the algorithm like so:


    This has an additional benefit in Microsoft Excel. Having only 3 categories allows Conditional Formatting to be applied to emphasize the contrast. I changed the background color on cells in these categories to be either green, yellow, or red depending on the category.

    Invalid Formula Error

    If you copy and paste the above algorithm into Excel, you may get an invalid formula error even if you correctly swap out the variables (Z1, T1, etc.) for cell references. I am assuming that the version above gets pasted in as smart quotes and excel only recognizes straight quotes. The problem was fixed once I typed over the pasted double quotes using the keyboard.