Friday, March 31, 2017

Little Reminders that Make a BIG Difference

Sometimes, we as teachers forget that our job is to teach.

I'm not talking about content.  We never forget that our job is to teach content.

We sometimes forget that the job of teaching includes so much more than just content.

And when we are reminded it's like a smack in the face.

I was smacked in the face yesterday.

We have less than 38 days of school left this year, not counting weekends.  This means that we have had over 130 school days so far.  During the first week of school (125 weekdays ago) we discussed what "team work" or "team discussion" looked like in class.

Yesterday we were starting to work on one of our Zoom In on History lessons, which requires quite a bit of team work and discussion.  It was a rainy, dreary day and I figured the conditions would be perfect for some "half-asked" team work.  It was just a feeling that I had.  Something in the back of my brain, or deep in my gut told me that we needed to simply review what "teamwork" looks like. (What's Zoom-In?  Click here)

So here's what went down...

ME:  "Since you are to be working with your team members, what should I see and hear as I travel around the room?"

"that we are on-task"

ME:   "ok...but what does that look and sound like?"

Now they started to get a little more specific.

"We should be talking about the Boston Massacre."

"Everyone should be talking in the group, no one should be sitting back and not paying attention."

"We might be arguing about what the answer could be."

ME:  Ok...great.  What about body language?  What will your groups look like?

"We should be sitting up."

"Or leaning in to talk so everyone in the group can hear."

"Maybe we could sit on the floor so that it is more comfortable to sit and work."

Result: We had the best day of teamwork and discussion of the year so far!  Why?  Because we discussed what that would look and sound like, immediately before asking the students to participate. They were given clear expectations of what I would see and hear as I walked around.  I didn't have to nag kids to get back to work, groups worked at similar speeds and didn't get off-task until they were finished. (When I don't mind if they chit chat quietly while we wait for all groups to finished up before moving on.)  All of this happened because I took less than two minutes of my class time to remind the students what the task should look like. A small reminder, that made a BIG difference on our day.

I was reminded that my job is to teach more than the content of the Boston Massacre.  My job it to also teach kids how to work with others, how to participate in a discussion, and what that actually LOOKS and SOUNDS like.  Giving them specific examples made a world of difference.

I need to do this all the time and with more skills in the classroom.  When I think of how many times I just "assume" that students know what they are supposed to do and how it should look... I am doing too much assuming and not enough teaching.