Imagine there was a supplement that was 100% proven to give you more energy, better health, improved judgment, faster reflexes, sharper memory, superior cognitive functioning, elevated emotions, and enhanced social connections. Imagine the life you could enjoy with all those benefits. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to pay each month for a therapeutic dose of just such a supplement. Now... what would you say if I told you that there is just such a supplement... and it doesn't cost a cent to obtain?
That's right: Sleep!
Sleep is a gift that everyone has available to them, and it is absolutely free. The cost, if you will, is only a change in one's attitude and habits. Habits are hard to change, I know, but I can assure you that the habit of ourselves of sufficient sleep is well worth changing.
I recently challenged my students to contribute at least one idea that a student could employ in an effort to get more sleep. I then compiled the results and created a toolkit to help students not only get more sleep, but also track the sleep that they do get (see PDF attached at the bottom of this article). I then challenged my students to experiment with implementing a number of these strategies every day until they settle upon a mix of strategies that allows them to regularly get at least eight hours of sleep a night. I promised them that they would find an incredible change in how they feel after just three consecutive nights of sufficient sleep.
The Economics of Sleep
A number of students will often argue, "I don't have time for eight hours of sleep! How would I possibly get all my work done?" My counter argument is based on the issue of economic efficiency.
In economics, efficiency is defined as the ratio of output per unit of input. We only have so many hours in a day. Therefore, the more we can accomplish with each hour available to us, the more efficient we will be. Getting more sleep, I argue, is an economically sound investment not only in health and wellness, but in productivity. If a student is regularly sleep deprived, then they cannot possibly be as focused or productive as they would have been had they been well rested. This lack of sleep sets into motion a positive feedback loop (aka a "vicious circle") wherein a student is less productive, so they get less work done, so they stay up later doing work, so they get less sleep, so they are more tired, so they are even less productive the next day... and on the cycle goes. In making sleep a priority, we turn this feedback loop around on itself: getting more sleep, becoming more efficient, getting more work done during our waking hours, thereby gaining more time to sleep, and thereby becoming even more efficient the next day.
The Sleep Mindset
I have outlined below a comprehensive list of strategies that one can employ in order to restructure their lives toward a more sleep-oriented mindset. The strategies are all good, but they are all, in essence, established on the same foundational attitude: a perspective that views sleep as a truly valuable aspect of our lives - one deserving of our time, attention, and aspiration.
We cannot afford to view sleep as simply the absence of doing anything else.
We cannot afford to view sleep as simply the absence of doing anything else. Otherwise, we will not grant ourselves the privilege of our much-needed sleep until we have done absolutely everything else we can possibly think of doing within a given day. Making reference to another economic theory, I would argue that people tend to pursue a non-optimal mix of activities in their day-to-day lives - overproducing less necessary activities, while underproducing valuable sleep. I believe people tend to overstate the importance of the tasks with which they are actively engaged. This is essentially because of emotional inertia: people want to keep doing whatever it is they are currently doing. If that happens to be organizing their sock drawer, then, in an effort to reduce cognitive dissonance and rationalize their behaviour, they will tend to overstate the importance of having organized socks. Meanwhile, sleep gets put on the back burner and is underproduced. Thus, the individual never really achieves their socially optimal - or shall we say - personally optimal mix of outputs.
Our Top Ten List of Sleep Strategies
We all know the importance of sleep, and we all know that we don't get enough. It's making the transition towards a sleep-oriented mindset that is the sticking point. What changes can people actually make to their day-to-day lives that will dispose them toward getting more sleep? Below you will find ten practical ideas that you can start using today in order to get the sleep you need. You don't need to try them all, but give a few ideas a go each day. When you settle on a mix of strategies that works for you, then keep it going! After all, doctors and sleep researchers tell us that establishing a regular sleep and waking routine is probably the single best thing we can do to assure ourselves of getting sufficient, quality sleep.
Challenge yourself and your students to make sleep a top priority in your lives, and see the difference it makes. Feel free to download, share, print off, or hand out the "Getting Better Sleep" sleep kit linked below... and let me know how your quest for better sleep goes!
The “Rule of FIVE” is a revision of the Rule of TEN approach to assessment that I originally published on Newlearner.com back in 2008. Essentially, the Rule of TEN was an approach wherein the final mark for a senior school course would be based on exactly ten pieces of assessment. No more… no less. I believed that the Rule of Ten promoted assessment that was Timely, Engaging, and Necessary.
However, given the degree to which many teachers, including myself, are taking personalized learning these days, even ten assessments may become overwhelming for both students and teachers. This is because developing, managing, and assessing a variety of different assessments for each student will invariably take more time than would developing, managing, and assessing the same assessment for all students within a given course. For this reason, I have revised my original number of assessments down to FIVE, thus creating a pedagogy that views the four pillars of assessment as being: Fun, Inspiration, Validity, and Engagement.
A Caveat… Summative vs. Formative
Under the Rule of FIVE, students will invariably complete more than just five assessments over the duration of a course. However, those other assessments will not count towards the student’s final grade. Rather, the other non-rule assessments will be designed to be formative in nature, occurring within a unit of study (or learning module) in order to provide feedback to the student and the teacher about the student’s progress. Only the five official “rule” assessments employed under the Rule of FIVE will be summative in nature and therefore count towards the student’s final grade. As is always the case, formative assessment will provide feedback on how a student is learning, while summative assessment will provide feedback on how a student has learned. (Note: In this regard, formative assessments can include index assessments, which are essentially mastery formative opportunities provided during a unit of study, which then become summative at the conclusion of a unit of study. Thus, students continue to work at these assessments until they achieve the mark they desire, knowing that the highest mark they achieve will become summative at a later point in time.)
While this rule may seem radical to those teachers who have traditionally focused on providing numerous assessments in their courses, other teachers have been employing a similar approach for decades. It goes without saying that teachers new to this approach can certainly expect to experience what might be described as a classroom cultural shift when implementing the Rule of FIVE.
The Rationale… in the form of a mnemonic
Under the Rule of FIVE, the final mark for a senior school course is based on exactly five pieces of assessment, thus encouraging assessment that is:
i) Fun: Where possible, assessment should be designed to be both enjoyable and exciting for the student. Fewer assessments should provide both teachers and students the time required to tailor assessments to individual students in an effort to activate and integrate individual student passions, strengths, and interests.
ii) Inspiring: A general trend seen in education today is assessments that are being designed in an effort to inspire deeper learning as opposed to evaluating what the student has already learned. Invariably, this is a shift away from assessment "of" learning and towards assessment "as" learning. Thus, having fewer overall assessments, each that are designed to be richer, deeper, and more personalized will, hopefully, inspire greater curiosity, passion, and deeper learning in each and every student.
ii) Valid: In general, the term valid describes something that indicates what it is intended to indicate. Applied to assessment, this would mean that the assessment really does assess the knowledge and skills associated with a given unit of study. Obviously, this means that the assessment should assess knowledge and skills associated with specific curriculum content. However, there is an added aspect of validity that is created when we assess students using a smaller number of assessments. This is addressed in the next pillar in the Rule of Five: student engagement.
i) Engaging: A smaller number of assessments should allow the student to provide his full attention and best effort toward each and every assessment. After all, marks are collected and recorded under the assumption that they reflect the student’s best - that is to say, “true” - ability. However, large numbers of lower-value assessments can force students to make economic trade-offs between assessments that receive their full commitment versus assessments that receive less than their best effort. In such cases, it is invariably the lower-value assessments that will tend to receive a compromised effort. Sadly, the aggregate effect of numerous lower-value assessments can nonetheless have an impact on a student’s overall grade, and, in cases where numerous smaller assignments did in fact receive less than the student’s best effort, the final grade in the course may not necessarily reflect the student’s true ability.
ONLY five marks?!
Only five marks for a secondary school course sounds a bit crazy. After all, if only five marks were collected, then each assessment would be worth, on average, 20% of the student's overall grade. In the interest of full transparency, my application of the Rule of FIVE refers to major assignments that have due dates, and thus vie for the student's time and attention outside of class. I collect many other marks in class by way of my Classwork Portfolio and my Mastery Learning Lab. In total, I actually collect 15 marks for each student throughout the year, including five RULE marks, five Mastery Learning Lab marks, and five Classwork Portfolio marks. When those marks are broken down into their KICA categories, I actually end up recording 40 marks for each student. Now that's nothing to sneeze at.
In the final analysis, the Rule of FIVE is intended to address one of the most incontrovertible issues impacting on student assessment: time. FIVE pieces of major assessment will essentially ensure that the effort students direct towards these assessments is more reflective of their true ability and less reflective of the economic choices that students invariably make when confronting an overwhelming number of assessments.
Have you seen this video? You should. It was posted by a man who goes by the handle of Prince Ea. He's pretty talented, I'll give him that. A number of people obviously put a lot of time, thought, effort, and, of course, money into this video. Having said all that, this video drives me nuts. I told the Prince Ea as much in a comment that I left him. Given that very few people will ever read that comment, I decided I would post it again here. (See below.)
My Post to Prince Ea's Video, left on June 2, 2018:
So your evidence is a picture of a classroom from today and a picture of a classroom from 150 years ago? That's it? That's what you've got? I have taught for 27 years, and in that time I have taught law. I can tell you that your evidence lacks relevance. Why don't you compare a hammer from today to a hammer from 150 years ago? Many things don't change, and, in fact, many things get worse over time. Beyond that, why don't you provide an honest picture of a classroom from today? Classrooms are changing. (See mine here: https://twitter.com/ArtLightstone/status/639931512985624576) Teaching approaches are changing, and they've been changing for a long time. (See more about my teaching approaches here: http://www.newlearnerlab.com/)
Forgive me if I might seem sensitive, but this bologna that gets pandered about in the media about how stubborn, lazy, and rigid teachers are drives me crazy. In fact, let me put the question to you: Why do you think teachers are stubborn, rigid, and resistant to change? What's your theory? Do you suppose it's nature or nurture? Do only rigid people get into teaching? Or maybe teaching turns people rigid? Sounds pretty crazy when I put it like that, doesn't it. You know why it sounds crazy? Because it is crazy.
Teachers aren't rigid at all. In fact, surviving in the teaching profession takes more flexibility, innovation, and creativity than anything I can think of. Teachers start to develop a notion of what works in the classroom (and what doesn't work) almost immediately. They don't just change their approaches from year to year, they change them from unit to unit... even from day to day.
All we want to do is prepare students to successfully navigate their way in the world and hopefully make a positive contribution to society. It's hard work... and what's the thanks we get? We get people who, it would appear, like to blame teachers for their own challenges - even their own shortcomings, and we get to constantly hear baseless stereotypes and inflammatory malarkey like this.
Enjoy all your hits on this video. I guess that's how we measure success these days.
The New Learner Lab
Exploring the ever-changing, often challenging, and always controversial world of teaching.