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The Response-Able Educator Newsletter 14
February 18, 2003


Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able teacher and developing Response-Able students.



My mission is to inspire, encourage and uplift the spirits of educators so they can in turn inspire, encourage, and uplift the spirits of their students.





1. Quote [back to top]


"We were never the carriers of our own stories. We never trusted our own voices. Reforms came, but we didn't make them. They were invented by people far removed from schools - by "experts." Such reforms bypassed the kinds of school-by-school changes, both small and structurally radical, that teachers and parents might have been able to suggest - changes that, however slow, could have made a powerful difference."

----Deborah Meier


2. Humor [back to top]


The students had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade each of them to buy a copy of the group picture.

"Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you're all grown up and say, 'There's Jennifer - she's a lawyer' or 'That's Michael - he's a doctor.'"

A small voice from the back of the room chimed in, "'And there's the teacher - she's dead.'"


3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]


What if real achievement is not about what we know or what we do, but is measured by what we are? If so, are you adequately preparing your students for their achievement tests?


4. Teacher Talk Tip [back to top]


Higher-Level Thinking Vocabulary

When did Columbus sail the ocean blue?
Recite the primary colors.
Who was the fourth President of the United States?
What happened next in the story?

Simple recall questions, which often require only a one-word response, ask students for memorized answers. They do not ask for thinking. These questions tend to emphasize relatively unimportant knowledge, produce shallow thinking, and prepare students to become great Trivial Pursuit players. In addition, their repeated use helps students develop a "quiz show" mentality and a distorted perception of intelligence.

To avoid this situation in your classroom and to ensure that the questions you ask call for real thinking, add these 30+ words to your Teacher Talk repertoire:

Generalize, induce, qualities, pattern, classify, reasons, parts, sort, sequence, factors, procedures, same/different, compare, contrast, differentiate, infer, connect, rate, prioritize, summarize, condense, opinion, evaluate, decide, changes, possibilities, predict, forecast, combine, design, simulate, improve. (From Questions for Life, Performance Learning Systems, Nevada City, CA.)

Use any one of these words, and there's a good chance you will create a thought-provoking question. Here are some examples:

Compare Magellan to Balboa.
From the reading, what can you induce about teen drivers?
What are some possibilities for solutions here?
What do you predict will happen next?
What is your opinion of the main character?
How could you improve it?
What categories would you sort these into?
In what ways is the orange the same as the apple?

Challenge yourself to add this vocabulary of thinking to your classroom questions. Watch and listen to the reactions your efforts generate. After you've collected some data, ask yourself, "How are these reactions the same as and how do they differ from those I got in the past?"


5. The Teacher Talk Seminar [back to top]


The Teacher Talk System announces the following open seminars:

Achievement Motivation and Behavior Management (K-12)

Lansing, MI March 25, 2003
Chicago, IL March 26, 2003
Atlanta, GA March 27, 2003

    • Decrease Discipline Problems
    • Increase Student Motivation
    • Reduce Power Struggles in Your Classroom
    • Increase Student Responsibility for Academic Achievement
    • Learn Practical, Time-Efficient Strategies That Work
    • Add Thinking Questions to All Lessons

The seminars include many Teacher Talk ideas and the Sounds of Spirit Whispering. Email to request a detailed brochure.



6. Manage Your Subscription [back to top]


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7. Article: Cause I'm Good At It [back to top]


by Chick Moorman

It was a crowded restaurant, so full that I had to give my name to the hostess and wait in the lobby until my name was called. Several others who had preceded me had not yet been seated, so I had to stand. It was there, standing in the waiting area minding my own business, that I noticed her.

She must have been around five or six years old. She was sitting next to her mother waiting to be called for dinner. She had already received three crayons and a paper to work on, the kind of paper that restaurants give kids to keep them busy until their meal arrives. It contained riddles, an escape-from-the-dungeon challenge, a word search, and a dot-to-dot adventure.

I watched as she worked on the dot-to-dot picture. The numbers went from one to fifty. It was obvious to me that the dots, when connected, would make an elephant. When the youngster got to number ten, which clearly showed the head of an elephant, I asked her, "Do you know what that is going to be?"

"Yep," she replied.

"What?" I questioned.

"An elephant."

"Looks like one to me too," I offered.

Torn between minding my own business and proceeding with the conversation, I chose to ask one more question.

"Well, if you already know it's going to be an elephant, why are you still connecting those dots instead of doing some of the other activities on your paper?"

She looked at me as though I were some kind of weirdo and replied, "Cause I'm good at it." End of discussion.

Later, I thought about that incident and the little girl who did things because she was good at them. I thought about school and how we usually have kids work on the things they are not good at. In fact, in most schools one of the rewards for getting good at something is that a student no longer gets to work on it.

If a child working on multiplication tables masters the 3's and 4's, the child is given 5's and 6's. If the child then masters the 5's and 6's, he or she is immediately moved on to 7's and 8's. Some reward!

If a student learns addition, he or she goes to subtraction. When the student learns that, it's on to multiplication. The reward for learning something a student doesn't know is "Here's something else you don't know. Work on that for a while."

Of course we need to help students learn things they don't know. And most class time should probably be spent on that. But couldn't we create some times when students work on things they already know?

Wouldn't there be some value in having students who are working on their 8's and 9's go back and do their 2's and 3's? It would give them a sense of how far they've come - a yardstick with which to measure their own progress as learners. It might help them realize, "These are easy. I remember when they were hard. Maybe the hard 8's and 9's will seem easy someday."

I like to do what I'm good at, too, don't you? I love leading seminars, writing books, and riding horses because I'm good at those things. I'll bet the same concept holds true for you.

Why not provide some time each week or each semester for students to revisit what they previously learned? Let them go back and play around with what was taught the first two weeks of the semester. Devote some time on Monday to letting them burn through some easy material that once was hard. Debrief with them afterwards, checking out what they thought about it. You just might find they enjoyed themselves because they were good at it.


8. Question and Answer [back to top]


Question: May I copy articles and ideas from your newsletter and share them with others?

Answer: Yes, please do. All I ask is that you put my name on anything you use and tell people where it came from and how they can contact me. All previous newsletters can be found at


9. Bumper Sticker [back to top]


Spotted on a dirty Toyota in Wausau, WI:

"A procrastinator's work is never done."



10. Book Report [back to top]


The paperback edition of "Parent Talk" is now in bookstores across the country. Selling for $13.00, the Simon and Schuster Fireside Original has a slightly different title from the hardback edition. Ask for "Parent Talk: How to Talk to Your Children in Language That Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility."

Except for an updated and slightly expanded introduction, the new paperback is the same as the hardback edition. I have copies available at if your bookstore doesn't yet stock the paperback.


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To find out more about workshops, seminars, and keynote addresses presented by Chick Moorman contact him at toll free, 877/360-1477 or on the web at


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