Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students By Their Brains
Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students By Their Brains

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From seating plans to Shakespeare, Teaching Outside the Box offers practical strategies that will help both new teachers and seasoned veterans create dynamic classroom environments where students enjoy learning and teachers enjoy teaching. This indispensable book is filled with no-nonsense advice, checklists, and handouts as well as

  • A step-by-step plan to make the first week of school a success
  • Approaches for creating a positive discipline plan
  • Methods for motivating students, especially reluctant readers
  • Strategies for successful classroom management
  • Suggestions for creating and grading student portfolios

Customer Reviews:

  • a good read but neither really useful for me and I can't say I share all the ideas expressed
    There are good and interesting things in this book but there are also many opinions on teaching which may appear a bit shocking to the usual (non extraordinary) teacher on the block.
    This book will certainly not teach you how tos, so do not expect this but it shows one experience of teaching from one person only. It is still quite interesting to read. Maybe you can plan on following the example Johnson is provided you have no private life, and especially no children. I, personnally, spend a lot of time working for the kids in my classes but my students come way behind my family and my son's interests, one of them being my availability. People without a family hardly know the importance it has in someone's life and work shall remain at its due place: providing for the family. Let the people who have no family throw themselves under work, live to work... Teaching is a job, like any other job, in spite of what some would like us to believe. I don't think one should consider that work as SOOOOOOO important either. We as teachers are no gods!!! So if you share my views on this, you'll certainly find some parts of this book a bit provocative and full of spite.
    And yet it is worth three stars AND worth reading....more info
  • A MUST Own
    Thinking Outside the Box is hands down THE best teaching book I own (and I own a lot of theaching books). Johnson's straight-forward, friendly, yet pragmatic style make this an enjoyable and useful book. I plan on using all of the ideas that she has put forth. I will reread it as soon as I am finished! It's like having the best mentor spill all of her secrets. She also has helped me affirm my own teaching style. I am a young teacher and sometimes get the message that I'm too soft. Johnson's friendly yet in-charge teaching style is a refreshing change from the "Don't smile 'till Christmas" advice that I have received from other seasoned teachers. I normally don't write reviews but I had to recommend this book because it is so wonderful. A+ ...more info
  • The Art of Empathy
    "Teaching Outside the Box" deals with what is at the heart of all great teaching and learning. Empathy. Patience. Tolerance. There have always been two schools of thought when it comes to dealing with under-supported kids. There is the path of swift and immediate justice. In short, the kids must pay. The must pay, yet again, for coming from tough homes or crumbling neighborhoods. They must succumb to a foreign value system when entering the classroom with little or no background knowledge of what great potential and possibility life can hold for them. And teachers who see themselves as "tough" break their already broken spirits down further. There is another path, though. It suggests that the greater respect and love you give children, the more you get back. This one, however, just takes longer. But it is well worth the wait. "Teaching Outside the Box" comes from this school of thought. And it represents it very well. It is a must-read for any teacher who feels they were called to the profession; who feel they are in those classrooms not simply to teach, but to alter the course of young lives. It should be mandatory reading for all who work with children.

    Chris Bowen
    Author of "Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom"....more info
  • Not just elementary school
    Although this book looks like it would be for elementary school only, it really branches out. Some of the short lessons transcend all grades and are even valuable for adults. A must-buy for anyone looking for a fresh approach to goal setting with students of any age....more info
  • Title should be "Teaching Inside the Box"
    Like the author I entered teaching later in life. I brought some of my insights in managing people and motivating people with me. It helped to an extent because in teacher training courses you get none of it.

    The great thing about this book is the author actually gives examples and suggestions of what to do in real every day teaching situations. I teach outside the US and her ideas work fine. Kids are kids - no matter where you are.

    Sharing her triumphs and failures she actually seems to have looked deeper into the classroom setting and adopted her teaching to fit. That is why I recommend a change of the title. The ideas she suggests are not new ideas - just good people skills.

    I read Rafe Esquiths books and his come across a bit as "Look how good I am/was". This book is more of someone sharing and giving practical advice for you to use.

    Any univeristy student about to enter student teaching should read this book. ...more info
  • Great for a beginner teacher
    This book was just what I needed to begin teaching in the classroom. I am trying to be one of those teachers who do more than just "stand up in the front of the classroom and lecture all day". Great read!...more info
  • Excellent, pragmatic approaches for building a classroom
    I've already used some of the methods I found in Ms. Johnson's book, and share much of her general philosophy of working with kids from difficult backgrounds. Even after 10 years of being fairly successful at teaching "at-risk" kids, I found that seeing the logic and reasoning of her approach on the page clued me in to many of the principles behind a successful classroom which I already used, but never saw fully articulated on the page. It sounds a bit bizarre, but I now have a better understanding of the "hows and whys" of what I do from reading her work. These are the tips that you didn't get in college regarding working with challenging older kids; it's both an intellectual and visceral approach to teaching that will help you avoid many confrontations with kids before they ever happen, and give you the understanding of how to handle the battles you can't avoid. Holding kids to high standards of behavior sends the message to your students that you believe that they are capable great things, but it can take years to build the skills a teacher needs to get to that point. This book is the blueprint for building a successful classroom.

    There is also a lot here about understanding kids that have to return everyday to very difficult lives at home. Many teachers of kids with tough home lives fail because they never really understood the lives of the young people they were dealing with. Understanding the reasoning and emotions behind unreasonable classroom behavior is the key to minimizing it and surviving as a teacher, and this book reminds us that these behaviors have roots in what these kids have to go through everyday. There is much here to remind you of the positive and long-lasting effects a caring teacher can have, and that the balance of positive reinforcement with a tough determination for high standards is key to getting the best out of our kids.

    I've always been struck by the fact that a greater community hasn't been built by the teachers that work with challenging students, but maybe that comes from the fact that we're cut from a different cloth. The unfortunate aspect of this lack of community is that many of us build our approaches from scrap, taking the best of what we see in our coworkers, and trying methods that we come up with on the fly. There's just so little accumulated knowledge on our curious line of work passed down from one generation of experienced teacher to the next. Also, there are many aspects of working with tough kids that will never make it into the education school textbooks, a manifestation of the great and ridiculous divide between educational research and classroom practice (don't even let me get started on that topic). The helpfulness of educational academia's theories can be said to be directly correlated to the years they've spent teaching in difficult circumstances. You may be able to quantify the number of kids that respond to a reading program that your district will never have the money to buy (and you will never have time to teach), but they will never fully comprehend the necessity of learning to deliver a warm and sincere compliment, or chillingly-cold stare, at just the right moment. This book delivers the goods to those that wish to help the kids that most people have given up on, to work for little more than the knowledge that they did something that needed and deserved to be done.
    ...more info
  • If you are a public school teacher then you engage in state-sponsored brainwashing and should be sent to prison!
    Marx is back, this time he's wearing Dockers. In order to bring about rule by the proletariat, Marx said there were some obstacles in the way that needed to be abolished: Family, Religion, and Culture. Our public schools are doing everything they can to do just that!

    Family: We - are - family, Trotsky, Lenin, Pol Pot and me! From the tender age of 5 straight on to 18, liberal teachers have a death-grip on your children's psyche from 8:00 until 3:00! The Dems are already discussing legislation to create government daycare systems that could have your kids in their clutches straight out of the womb!

    Then they have these parent-teacher conferences that are frighteningly similar to $cientology confessionals, only they are not forced to talk into a pair of tin-cans! The teacher's grill them on a long list of subjects until the parent is so tired and wanting to leave that he/she will give into any/all of the teacher's demands!

    Religion: Mommy, why can't Johnny read (the Bible?) As long as man holds himself accountable to God and not man, the State can never truly own him! Take away God and man's highest authority will be the State! Yike stripes! The trial that began the menagerie was the infamous Everson v. Board of Education 330 U.S. 1. (1947). Which not only took prayer out of schools, but gone on to remove any mention of God!

    Culture: Hey, I've got the diversity pneumonia and the multi-culti flu! By smothering your child with every culture but his own, the State is in fact taking away his culture. By the time your child leaves school, he is so bewildered by this cultural bombardment that he may start chanting is Swahili!

    This small example taken from a popular education website will allow you to hear it from the horse's mouth!
    "Content must be complete and accurate, acknowledging the contributions and perspectives of ALL groups.
    * Ensure that the content is as complete and accurate as possible.
    o "Christopher Columbus discovered America" is neither complete nor accurate.
    * Avoid tokenism--weave content about under-represented groups (People of Color, Women, Lesbian, Gxy, and Bisexual People, People with Disabilities, etc.) seamlessly with that about traditionally over-represented groups.
    o Do you present under-represented groups as "the other"?
    o Do you address these groups only through special units and lesson plans ("African American Scientists"; "Poetry by Women") or within the context of the larger curriculum?
    o Do you "celebrate" difference or study, explore, and acknowledge it as part of the overall curriculum?
    * Study the history of discrimination in curriculum and ensure that you are not replicating it.
    o Are supporting stereotypes (learning about Native Americans by making headdresses and tomahawks) or challenging them (learning about Native Americans through resources by Native Americans)?
    o Are you supporting or challenging the assumption that our society is inherently Eurocentric, male-centric, Christian-centric, heterosexual-centric, and upper-middle-class centric?"

    Well, having exposed without question our Marxist public school system, let's take a look at its list of crimes!

    * Teachers should, in theory, present numerous sides of issues and give their pupils a well rounded education. Then why is it that they are all FORCED to become members of the NEA, a far-left lobbyist group!? The union even tells its members who to vote for! This sounds like racketeering to me. Let's use those RICO statutes!

    * In order to keep as many people as possible within their grasp, the NEA refuses to give vouchers to minorities so they can escape to the freedom of private schools!

    * Whenever a student shows any sign of individualism, unconventional behavior, or beliefs that are not endorsed by the State, they are prescribed mind control drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac!

    * The public school system puts so much stress on our children that they are beginning to lash out and shoot, bomb, and otherwise kill their fellow classmates!

    * Some teachers even engage in s-e-x acts with their students! In fact these cases are in the news all the time!

    * Check out this definition of prison and be mortified: "A public building used for the confinement of people convicted of serious crimes." That's what public schools are! Public buildings used for the confinement of people! But public schools are even worse because the children haven't even committed any crimes! Or maybe our government just assumes they will and this is a form of preemptive correction! Is the government proselytizing them to have a herd-like mentality.

    * This just in! Youth suicide rates up! Children would rather die than go to public school! In 1998, among youth ages 10 to 19 in the United States, there were 2,054 suicides! Those kids could have grown up to be doctors or great scientists but the public school system drove them to kill themselves!

    Your eyes are probably blinded by tears brought on by the long list of grievances I just listed. Therefore, I will give you a moment to wipe them from your eyes and regain your composure.
    All done? Good, because there's hope.

    Home schools- Parents, you don't need the government to do your job for you! You are more than capable of teaching your children everything they need to know, even more so as you can give your child 100% of your attention! Make sure you always have your child take part in activities with people their age, such as Church, sports, and home-schooling events so they are prepared for the world when they have graduated. Fathers, take your son to work and let him observe, when he gets a little older, begin some hands-on training. Mothers, don't just cook and clean for your daughters, have them cook and clean with you to provide hands on training. The opportunities for preparing your child for the rat-race, without government intervention, are limited only by your imagination and lack of initiative!

    The best part is, unlike school where they sit down all day and are filled with energy when they get home, your tykes will be tuckered out by the end of your hands on instruction, leaving you and your spouse ample free-time to get to work on making more independent thinkers!

    ...more info
    I had high hopes when I purchased this book but was sadly disappointed. It really is a good book for either new teachers or those who work in urban settings. I am not new to teaching nor do I teach in an urban area so I was not able to put my reading to good use. I think there is an abundance of great advice for those new to profession so I would recommend this highly to them. If you have taught for several years you probably already implement the recommendations in the book. While some of the book could be applied to any grade level, most of it is geared toward middle or high school. This also was contrary to my personal needs but may be quite useful to others. So, new teachers, urban teachers, and teachers of grades 6-12 will probably find this book rather useful. Others might want to keep looking for something else that targets their needs more directly....more info
  • Some Unique Ideas for Effective Teaching
    As an experienced elementary teacher, I especially appreciated the relatively novel features of this book. For instance, while discussing the layout of the classroom for effective learning, Johnson mentions the distracting effects of classroom odors, and recommends that the teacher invest in an air purifier. She notes that music being played can calm the children. And, when discussing children who have reading difficulties, she mentions scotopic sensitivity. This is the problem caused by the high contrast between black print on white paper, which is often aggravated by fluorescent lighting. One solution to this problem is the provision of transparent, colored overlays to cover the printed page.

    Johnson opposes ability grouping. She also strongly opposes forcing children to read out loud who don't feel comfortable doing so. This only humiliates them.

    She eschews the authoritarian approach of teacher-student relations in favor of one based on mutual respect. As an example, she mentions a cowboy (Craig Cameron) who trains horses to accept their saddles (pp. 112-114) instead of chasing them, confronting them, and forcing the saddles on them. She believes that all teachers should study Cameron's methods and apply them to children.

    Despite respecting their students, teachers often still have difficulties getting respect from their students. Johnson (p. 25, 236) believes that this stems from the teacher, perhaps unconsciously, projecting an "I am here to fix you and save you" attitude. Children then get a sense of being inferior, stupid, or wrong, and react accordingly.

    As for grading, Johnson comments: "Instead of dumbing down the curriculum when you work with unmotivated or underachieving students, try smartening them up instead." (p. 167). Also: "Ironically, the students who claim to care the least about school are the same ones who complain the most about the bad grades they earn." (p. 160). She is a firm believer in frequent progress reports. In some classes, students can earn at least a "C", regardless of how they do on tests, if there are no unexcused absences and all the assignments are adequately completed.

    Her book ends with a list of useful websites (URLs) for teachers.
    ...more info
  • My gift for mentorees
    I have been mentoring new teachers for several years. I was recently introduced to this title at a national seminar on making middle grades successful, and found the book so handy for my own use, and with such useful introductory chapters for first-year teachers, that it has become a standard part of my welcoming gift to new mentorees. I can flip to any part of the book and find ideas and reminders that keep me on track as the kind of teacher I want to be....more info


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