Sunday, October 28, 2012

Answering Less Questions

I'm not quite credentialed to teach and I haven't had my own classroom to manage. But, this is my speculation at what almost every teacher values. Every school day is limited in duration and a lot of lesson objectives must be covered. For those reasons, I think something that every teacher values is time. Even as a student teacher, I value completing all of my objectives within the time that I have available. I will offer just one way to appeal to that value although there are probably many others.

In many lessons, a teacher has an activity which students will engage with on their own or in partners. In either case, you want them both to be clear on what they're supposed to do and to remember that procedure. The bottom line though is that students forget. What is a student going to do if they forget? They're going to raise their hand or walk up to you to ask. That distracts you. That stops you from helping other students who are actually engaging with the lesson or it distracts you from prepping for other lessons and activities that you will implement later on in the day.

I'm giving you this suggestion because I have seen several teachers take this idea for granted. If your students are able to read, write your directions in a step by step format on the whiteboard. Why? Because if your directions as written on the whiteboard are clear for them, then when they raise their hand asking for instructions, all you need to do is point to the whiteboard. It takes time to write up the instructions, but writing up those instructions is like time insurance. If you have just two kids asking for directions, that would probably be enough to warrant writing directions on the whiteboard for students.

Here is an extremely simply example. Last week, my 4th graders were doing a state assessment. There were two black empty paper trays at the front of the classroom and sitting on a wooden ledge directly under the whiteboard. Directly above one paper tray, on the whiteboard, I wrote "Answer Sheet" and drew an arrow pointing to one black tray. Then, above the other black tray, I wrote "Booklet" and drew an arrow pointing to the other black tray. Most students knew what to do without even asking me. When I saw any students who looked the slightest bit confused or who raised their hand to ask me where their answer sheet and booklet goes, I just pointed to the writing on the whiteboard above both of the trays and those students' general reaction was "Oh ok."

Save yourself some time. Get less students to ask you about the directions. Write them up on the whiteboard.

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