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Saturday, September 27, 2014

What Do You Think About That? (Dear Katie V3 #3)

Dear Katie,

In my last blog post I made the following point:

"You'll discover that most quiet kids aren't shy 
and have a lot to say when asked"

So how does a teacher practically do that.  You could just call on the child.  Ask them a question on your lesson to check for understanding.  But what if they are quiet due to a lack of confidence.  What if they are afraid they will answer it wrong, and instead of answering they just shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't know."

Too often teachers rely heavily on the kids who always raise their hand.  When I played baseball in college, some friends of mine came to the game, and one of them asked, "Didn't you hear me cheer for you when you were batting?".

I told her I didn't.  Even though she was only 30 feet from the plate, beyond the backstop, my focus was on the 90 mph fastball coming at me, not the cheers of the crowd.  A teacher's focus can be single minded on the discussion at hand, that we do not realize we are playing the game while most of the class is sitting around watching us play with only a few other kids.

How do you move that student from watching behind the fence to playing the game?

One simple question can help.  During a classroom discussion, make a statement and then call the student you would like to get involved and ask, "What do you think about that?"

For me, it happened this week.  We were discussing "Chronological Snobbery", saying an idea or practice was wrong just because it was old, we need more reasons other than it is old to dismiss it.  I looked at a student that has not spoken up in my class so far this year and asked her if our principal should still use medieval torture practices like the rack to get information from students.   She laughed and said, "No", and I asked her "Why Not?"

She then explained how the person could just make up something to avoid being stretched.  I commended her response and thanked her for not saying, "Because it's from a 1000 years ago".  It was a form of the question, "What do you think about that?".  It not only puts a kid at ease because you are not putting them on the spot to be right or wrong, but you are asking them about something they cherish, THEIR OPINION, THEIR THOUGHTS.

And you know what happened the rest of the class.  Every time I asked a question about the reading, guess who had her hand up ready to answer.  

When a student feels that his/her opinions matter to the teacher, 
they move from spectators to playing the game.

Uncle Kevin

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