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Classroom Teaching with Mark Smilowitz


A podcast with reflections and strategies for budding Jewish education professionals. Ran from September 2008 until July 2010. Post comments here. Subscribe to the podcast using iTunes. Subscribe to the rss feed at http://www.lookstein.org/podcasts/rss.php (works only in Internet Explorer).

Tags: reflections, transformation, transmission, jewish education, tikkun olam, discipline, attitude, student success, season 2, , season two, appreciation, accountability, feedback, interview, success, failure, evaluation, gender, communication, learning process, textual learning, learning, lesson planning, pesach, purim, humor, big ideas, talmud, gemara, grading, papers, tests, summarizing, study skills, behavior, disruption, consequences, punishment, multiple intelligences, judaic studies, Understanding by Design, enduring understandings, UbD, Chanukah, empowerment, scholarship, questioning, challenges, experiential learning, iyyun, bikiut, depth, breadth, learning activities, brain research, first week, divergent questions, classroom tone, unit planning, organization, season 1, planning, self-evaluation, subject matter, professional development, routines, classroom management, teaching models, student achievement, preparation, debrief, language, self-esteem, burnout, fun, objectives, end of year, techniques, assessment, reading, skills, student-teacher relationship, higher level skills, judaism, report cards, differentiation, motivation, learning modes, parents, classroom roles, norms, teaching, students, goals, questions, classroom mangement

About Mark Smilowitz


Mark Smilowitz taught Judaic studies in middle school and high school levels for 12 years. Unsatisfied with the available options for professional growth, Mark sought a personal mentor. Mark emerged from his weekly sessions with his mentor with powerful new insights and ideas about teaching that he immediately implemented with profound impact on his students, not to mention great personal satisfaction. When Mark moved to Israel in 2005, he found that his his new teaching tools worked just as well with children on the other side of the globe. This podcast is Mark's attempt to share what he learned so that teachers - beginners and veterans - can find personal satisfaction in their profession.

Reflections on the Podcast Series - 060 – Mark Smilowitz closes the Classroom Teaching podcast series with this final episode that reflects on some of the morals and messages of the series that teachers can take to heart.
07/12/10 – 17 minutes

Tags: reflections

Transmission and Transformation with Professor Stevie Bravmann – Mark Smilowitz interviews retired teacher and professor of education Stephanie Bravmann on the topic of transformative education, including transformative Jewish education. They discuss the challenges teachers face in moving beyond transmitting information to transforming the child, why transformation is important, and what kind of mindset a teacher needs in order to do it.
06/22/10 – 35 minutes

Tags: transformation, transmission, jewish education, tikkun olam

The Difficult Student - 058 – There is a lot of good advice out there about how to deal with a difficult student. In this podcast Mark Smilowitz suggests that one critical issue that is often overlooked is the teacher's need to adjust his or her attitude from adversarial to advocative. Mark offers his advice how to do so to help effectively manage the difficult student.
05/30/10 – 16 minutes

Tags: discipline, attitude, student success, season 2,

Teaching Toward Appreciation - 057 – Beyond learning content knowledge and skills, many teachers would like to see their students develop a real and lasting appreciation for their subject. In this episode of Classroom Teaching, Mark Smilowitz offers an outline of how to teach toward appreciation.
05/10/10 – 20 minutes

Tags: season two, appreciation

An Interview with Rabbi Bernie Fox on Accountability - 056 – This episode focuses on the topic of accountability in the classroom with an interview with Rabbi Bernie Fox, the head of school at the Northwest Yeshiva High School of Seattle. He shares an impressively well thought-out and systematic approach to nurturing an ongoing sense of accountability among the students, which includes connecting accountability to stated goals and objectives, creating a learning partnership with the students, offering feedback in a cooperative manner, and other related issues.
05/02/10 – 37 minutes

Tags: accountability, feedback, interview, season 2

Accepting Your Successes - 055 – In this episode Mark Smilowitz considers the tendency for us as teachers to let others assess our success as teachers instead of doing so ourselves. He also discusses the habit we sometimes have of focusing on our failures instead of accepting our successes. Mark considers these issues in response to a recent story that happened to him.
04/14/10 – 16 minutes

Tags: success, failure, evaluation, season 2

An Interview with Chana Tannenbaum - 054 – In this episode Mark Smilowitz explores the issue of gender differences in the classroom with Dr. Chana Tannebaum. Some of the questions explored include, do teachers tend to treat boys and girls differently? Are there topics which should be taught differently to boys than to girls? Do the different genders tend to have different relative strengths and weakness as students? Come listen to this lively discussion about a fascinating and important topic.
01/01/08 – 29 minutes

Tags: gender, communication, learning process, textual learning, season 2, interview

Start Where They Are - 053 – It's a well known adage of education to start a lesson where the kids already are. But what does this mean, how does one do it, and how important is it? In this episode Mark Smilowitz explores different aspects of this fundamental principle. Includes examples for teaching about Pesach.
03/08/10 – 19 minutes

Tags: season 2, learning, lesson planning, pesach

Special Purim Podcast: An Interview the Worst Teacher of the Year - 052 – In this special Purim episode, Mark Smilowitz gets hints and tips from a teacher who has earned the title "worst teacher of the year." Come listen for a fascinating journey into a world of incompetence and negligence. Recommended listening, especially with an alcoholic beverage.
02/21/10 – 16 minutes

Tags: purim, humor

An Interview with Rabbi Haim Perlmutter - 051 – In this episode Mark Smilowitz explores the issue of teaching overarching concepts with R. Perlmutter, author of the book Gemara Wisdom. R. Perlmutter has extracted life lessons from the details of Jewish law discussed in the Talmud and in this episode he shares with Mark and listeners his secrets of how to discover and teach these powerful ideas that dwell in the depths of your subject area, whatever you may teach. Learn more about Haim and his work at http://haimperlmutter.com/.
01/31/10 – 25 minutes

Tags: big ideas, talmud, gemara, season 2, interview

Handing Papers Back On Time - 050 – How quickly do you get your students' papers graded and returned? Do you tend to have papers pile up? This episode includes a number of useful tips to help you sail through those piles of pages. It also discusses the educational and psychological benefits of returning papers in a timely way, and how doing so can increase student performance and teacher satisfaction.
01/17/10 – 23 minutes

Tags: grading, evaluation, papers, tests, learning, season 2

An Interview With Michelle Berkowitz - 049 – In this episode Mark talks with educational consultant Michelle Berkowitz about teaching kids how to summarize. We expect our students to summarize all the time, but we rarely think about all the skills they need to do it, nor do we consider the possibility that many kids don't know how. This interview sheds new light on an important but often ignored topic.
01/05/10 – 30 minutes

Tags: season 2, summarizing, study skills, interview

Natural and Logical Consequences - 048 – With engaging lessons and good classroom management skills, a teacher can take care of nearly all behavior problems. But then there's the occasional student who persists in disruptive behavior no matter what preventative measures a teacher takes. This episode explores guidelines for giving out the kinds of consequences that are most likely to have a positive impact on future student behavior.
12/21/09 – 25 minutes

Tags: behavior, disruption, consequences, punishment, season 2

An Interview with Semadar Goldstein - 047 – Mark interviews Semadar Goldstein, a veteran teacher who researched and developed ways to use Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory in the Judaic Studies classroom. Semadar describes the intelligences and explains how teachers can use them to maximize the learning of each child. You can download one of Semadar's MI lesson ideas here. To visit our MI site, go here.
12/08/09 – 30 minutes

Tags: multiple intelligences, judaic studies, season 2, interview

UbD in the Judaic Studies Classroom – This episode explores the Understanding By Design approach to planning lessons and its relevance to the specific needs of the Judaic studies teacher, based on years of experimentation with the UbD system.This podcast explores the Understanding By Design approach to planning lessons and its relevance to the specific needs of the Judaic studies teacher, based on years of experimentation with the UbD system.
11/22/09 – 25 minutes

Tags: Understanding by Design, enduring understandings, big ideas, UbD, Chanukah

An Interview with Rabbi Aytan Kadden - 045 – In this episode Mark talks with Israel's Teacher of the Year Rabbi Aytan Kadden about empowering students. Rabbi Kadden received the prize for his work in an experimental school that seeks to bridge the gaps between secular and religious students.
11/09/09 – 31 minutes

Tags: empowerment, season 2, interview

The Myth of Defensive Teaching - 044 – This episode considers what to do when you and your students discover a weakness in an idea you are teaching that you don't know how to answer. Instead of offering inadequate defenses, a teacher can seize this teachable moment to show kids how a mature thinker handles intellectual challenges.
10/25/09 – 17 minutes

Tags: scholarship, questioning, challenges, season 2

An Interview with Rabbi Yonah Fuld - 043 – Mark talks to Rabbi Fuld, past principal of SAR Academy in New York for 25 years, about experiential learning, and how it can nurture real connection and commitment to Judaism in ways beyond those of conventional classroom teaching.
10/23/09 – 26 minutes

Tags: season 2, experiential learning, interview

Breadth or Depth? - 042 – What's more important - covering a lot of ground at the expense of depth, or developing thinking and discussion at the expense of breadth? Does it really have to be a choice? This episode shows why both breadth and depth are indispensible, and in fact reinforce one another, along with suggestions of how to combine them. Includes some examples for teaching about the holiday of Sukkot.
09/29/09 – 24 minutes

Tags: season 2, iyyun, bikiut, depth, breadth,

Interview with Dr Chaim Feuerman - 041 – Mark Smilowitz interviews educator Dr Chaim Feuerman about the four innately pleasurable learning activities that teachers should be using regularly in their classes.
09/13/09 – 39 minutes

Tags: season 2, learning activities, brain research, interview

The First Week of School - 040 – What is the best way to start the school year? Should I get serious right away to set the tone? Or should I have fun with the students in order to get to know each other? Is there a way to combine both? Here's a suggestion for an integrated approach that smoothly merges two seemingly conflicting attitudes toward the first days of school.
08/30/09 – 24 minutes

Tags: first week, divergent questions, classroom tone

Planning a Unit - 039 – Unlike math or history textbooks that break the material up into units for the teacher, classical Judaic texts do not always lend themselves to being broken up into 3-5 week units. Here are some reasons why it's important to divide the learning year into smaller units, along with tips how the Judaic studies teacher can do so effectively .
08/21/09 – 20 minutes

Tags: unit planning, organization, season 1

Keeping Organized - 038 – Staying on top of the flow of papers can be a real challenge to teachers, who struggle to maintain order among the various handouts and student work that streams in and out. Rather than resign yourself to the mess and the lost papers, here is a system that you can implement from day one of school to help keep all your papers exactly where they ought to be.
08/12/09 – 26 minutes

Tags: organization, season 1

Seven Instructional Questions - 037 – This episode discusses seven questions worth asking yourself to help plan your year of teaching. They are also useful for planning units and planning lessons. The seven questions are available here.
08/04/09 – 16 minutes

Tags: planning, self-evaluation, season 1

An Interview with Professor Stevie Bravmann - 036 – Mark and Stevie discuss an extremely important idea for teachers: how to deconstruct your own learning process in order to use that process to inform how you teach others.
07/23/09 – 30 minutes

Tags: learning process, season 1

Becoming More Knowledgeable - 035 – While a teacher does not need to be the world's expert in their subject matter, the more you know and understand, the better you'll be able to teach. Here are some things teachers might do over the summer to grow in knowledge of their subject.
07/17/09 – 22 minutes

Tags: subject matter, professional development, season 1

Building Routines - 034 – While surprises are fun, we all need routines - teachers and students - in order for class to run smoothly. Here are some ideas about the importance of building a variety of routines into your teaching and practical suggestions about how to use them.
07/05/09 – 17 minutes

Tags: routines, classroom management, season 1

Planning a Year - 033 – Summer is not only a time to get a head start on planning your lessons, but it's also a good time to reflect on the larger framework of your year-long course. Here are a number of suggestions, including how to identify core ideas and key questions in your subject.
06/29/09 – 23 minutes

Tags: planning, season 1

Teacher Performance or Student Achievement - 032 – This episode considers two models of teaching, one that focuses on the teacher's presentation, and the other that focuses on student work and achievement. One of these seems more prevalent today, but the other has compelling features that should be considered.
06/23/09 – 20 minutes

Tags: teaching models, student achievement, season 1

The Last Days of School - 031 – While the school year is still fresh in your mind, while you still have your students and your colleagues are still with you, there are a number of resources a teacher can take advantage of to already make next year easier.
06/08/09 – 19 minutes

Tags: preparation, evaluation, season 1

Debriefing After Class - 030 – So many things happen in class that a teacher needs to remember, but keeping all those thoughts organized is a dizzying prospect. Teachers need to "debrief" after class, so here's one way of doing it. To view a sample debrief page, click here.
06/03/09 – 22 minutes

Tags: organization, debrief, season 1

Words to Use and Avoid - 029 – Our choice of language can have significant impact on a student's self-image. This episode explores a number of words teachers can use to help promote a positive student self-image, as well as words we would do well to avoid.
05/24/09 – 18 minutes

Tags: language, self-esteem, season 1

Teacher Burnout - 028 – Teaching can be overwhelming. This episode identifies seven contributors to teacher burnout, and offers strategies to get you back on track.
05/17/09 – 22 minutes

Tags: burnout, season 1

Having Fun in Class - 027 – What's wrong with making your classroom fun? Here are some ways to bring fun into the classroom.
05/14/08 – 15 minutes

Tags: fun, learning, season 1

Writing Behavioral Objectives - 026 – There are great advantages in formulating your daily lesson objectives in terms of student behavior. Here are some tips to help write effective behavioral objectives for your lessons.
05/03/09 – 17 minutes

Tags: objectives, season 1

The Last Months of School - 025 – Here are five suggestions how to help the students end the year with a sense of pride and accomplishment in their achievements.
04/21/09 – 14 minutes

Tags: end of year, season 1

Pedagogical Techniques from the Seder - 024 – Our Sages were master educators, and the Haggada and the Pesach Seder is one of their crowning achievements. Here are ten pedagogical techniques and approaches used by the Haggada that we as teachers should be using in our classrooms.
03/30/09 – 18 minutes

Tags: pesach, techniques, season 1

Collective Punishment - 023 – Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint the source of a problem and there is a temptation to mete out consequences to the whole group when only a few students are responsible. There is much to learn about this situation from the Biblical story of King David and Avigayil.
03/23/09 – 16 minutes

Tags: punishment, discipline, season 1

Administering Tests - 022 – When you give a test, your students can throw you some surprises. This podcast is a response to a teacher's email about what happens when students ask you, "Is this what I'm supposed to write?" as well as other issues that come up when adminstering tests.
03/16/09 – 16 minutes

Tags: evaluation, tests, season 1

Two Types of Assessment - 021 – Before we can teach our students, we have to know who they are, what they are thinking and feeling, and what they can and cannot do. That's why we need to plan regular assessments into our lessons. This podcast explains both summative and formative assessments, with examples and tips for making them effective.
03/01/08 – 19 minutes

Tags: assessment, season 1

The Right to Discipline - 020 – What is the basis of my right to tell my students how they have to behave? Maintaining clarity on the nature of my disciplinary role can help me to avoid power struggles and to nurture an atmosphere that supports learning.
02/22/09 – 18 minutes

Tags: discipline, season 1

Teaching Reading Proficiency - 019 – If you teach a class that involves reading classic Jewish texts, who does the reading? Do all of your students get the practice they need? Here are five ways to hear your students read so you can help them improve.
02/17/09 – 18 minutes

Tags: reading, skills, season 1

Evaluating Your Teaching - 018 – How do you assess your effectiveness as a teacher? There are some obvious, tell-tale signs around you, but there are some other things you can do to get a more accurate and thorough assessment.
02/08/09 – 18 minutes

Tags: self-evaluation, season 1

Pacing Professional Development - 017 – Rome wasn't built in a day, and we don't become masters of our trade in a year. A good approach to professional growth is to take baby steps for the short term while maintaining a long term perspective. This podcast includes some suggestions for choosing specific areas of focused growth.
02/02/09 – 17 minutes

Tags: professional development, season 1

The Role of Love - 016 – Like flowers need water, students need love to grow. Here are ten ways to show your love for your students.
01/25/08 – 16 minutes

Tags: student-teacher relationship, season 1

More Thoughts on Thinking Skills - 015 – How does Judaism view higher level thinking? Reflections on the relationship between Judaism and thinking skills.
01/18/09 – 21 minutes

Tags: higher level skills, judaism, season 1

Report Cards - 014 – Report cards can either be a nuisance or a motivating force and educational tool. Here are some reflections on how to make it the latter.
01/11/09 – 15 minutes

Tags: report cards, evaluation, season 1

Teaching Thinking Skills - 013 – For students to be fully engaged in learning, they need to be challenged with tasks that go beyond remembering and explaining. This episode reviews the six thinking skills of Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy and suggests ways of using them in the Judaic studies classroom in order to nurture higher level thinking.
01/04/09 – 20 minutes

Tags: higher level skills, season 1

Differentiated Instruction - 012 – Do all students learn in the same way? Of course not. So why should we teach them all in the same way? It may sound difficult, but there are practical ways teachers can easily adjust their lessons to meet the different needs of different students. Here are some reflections on differentiated instruction in the Judaic studies classroom.
12/22/08 – 20 minutes

Tags: differentiation, season 1

Motivating Students - 011 – When your students just want to be doing something else - anything else - how can you pull them in so they want to learn? And how can you help them to sustain their drive to learn for the duration of the year, and maybe even beyond? This episode analyzes a few effective motivational approaches, with plenty of examples, including one special for Chanukah.
12/14/08 – 22 minutes

Tags: motivation, season 1

Varying Learning Modes - 010 – Here's one way to put some variety into your lessons in order to grab more students' interest and attention and hold it for longer. Includes a fun Chanuka lesson idea.
12/07/08 – 19 minutes

Tags: learning modes, season 1

Talking to Parents - 009 – Parents should be your allies in helping your students grow and develop. Here's a "top ten" list of guidelines to help conduct constructive communication with parents.
12/01/08 – 18 minutes

Tags: parents, communication, season 1

When a Kid Fails a Test - 008 – What do you do when your student fails a test? Whose problem is it? What should you say to the student and what do you say to the parents? Here is a comprehensive guide to handling this situation with competence and professionalism.
11/24/08 – 21 minutes

Tags: tests, evaluation, season 1

The Role of the Teacher - 007 – You can't be everything for everyone, so, as a teacher, what exactly are you and for whom? Where do the responsibilities of a classroom teacher begin and end? Clarifying your role as teacher will focus your efforts on real achievement and can significantly reduce your stress levels.
11/16/08 – 24 minutes

Tags: classroom roles, season 1

Norms Versus Rules - 006 – An alternative to rules, norms help to create a culture of learning in the class and teach kids that controlling their behavior is a fundamental part of learning.
11/09/08 – 28 minutes

Tags: norms, classroom management, season 1

The Three Ingredients of Learning - 005 – For effective learning to happen, a unit should include three main ingredients: facts, skills, and concepts. Here's how to make sure your lessons include all three.
11/02/08 – 17 minutes

Tags: learning, season 1, teaching

Helping Students Get Organized - 004 – Students often have problems keeping track of all their "stuff", and their disorganization can kill a well prepared lesson. Here are some ideas about how to help students stay on top things so that they can focus all their energies on the learning.
10/26/08 – 19 minutes

Tags: organization, students, season 1

Goals and Objectives - 001 – A discussion on the difference between goals and objectives, and which one teachers should focus on, day-to-day.
09/17/08 – 17 minutes

Tags: goals, objectives, season 1

Fostering Student Questions - 003 – How do we teach our students to become independent learners? One way is to teach them the art of asking effective questions. Here is a technique to teach them this important and often neglected skill.
10/05/08 – 22 minutes

Tags: questions, season 1

LEAST Classroom Management - 002 – The LEAST method of classroom management helps teachers avoid disrupting their own classes and encourages students to take responsibility for their own behavior, saving the most drastic teacher responses for only the most drastic student misbehavior.
09/24/08 – 21 minutes

Tags: discipline, classroom mangement, season 1, behavior