Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Person Doing the Talking

Today, after school, stick your head outside your classroom and watch the kids. 

Man, they have a lot of energy, huh? As soon as that last bell rings, they seem to perk up, and get energized. Suddenly, drama becomes louder, skateboards come out, and “tag”-style flirting becomes a legitimate sport.  

Meanwhile, most of us teachers are beat. There are days when all we can do is get in the car and drive home and collapse.

Seriously. We, as a group, are pretty exhausted in the afternoons.

So, I want to throw this adage at you and then I want to shut up this week.

Are you ready? -- The person doing the talking is doing the thinking.

Take a look at those words again: The person doing the talking (about content) is doing the thinking (about content).

Now, look at your class today.

Who is doing the talking? Therefore, who is doing the thinking?

Find that smart-but-bored kid in your class and ask him or her to time when you talk and when the students talk.

Look at those totals. Whoooo is doing the (academic) talking? Whooooo is doing the (academic) thinking?

But Tracy (you may say), my kids don’t KNOW anything! They can’t TALK about content. I don’t know how to manage them so they do it well. When I let them talk about content, they go crazy! They talk about the movies or twitter or gossip or that dress!

It’s ok. Relax. You can help them do more academic talking. Maybe if they talk more (academically) THEY’LL be more tired and YOU’LL be less tired at the end of the day

Here are a few suggestions for helping the TEACHER talk LESS and the KIDS talk MORE (about content)
1.    Allow students to struggle -- even though we, as teachers, want to tell them the right answers, it’s helpful to have kids struggle a little. It’s ok to give them corrective feedback (“I don’t think that’s really what you’re looking for. Try looking over here...”) but it doesn’t do them any good to give them the answer.
2.    Move away from the front of the room -- Sit in the back and ask a kid to show the class the procedure. Stand to the side of the room and ask kids to read the directions or concept aloud. Circulate and listen.
3.    Have the kids turn and talk -- It’s the quickest and easiest way to get them to to process and “own” the content. Give them an open-ended question and teach the procedure.
4.    Have the kids reciprocally read -- One of the biggest “bangs for your buck”. This is my favorite reading strategy.  When kids reciprocally read well, they better understand and negotiate the text.  The more they do it, the better they comprehend the content.
5.    Instead of asking “does that make sense?”, ask “can you put what I said into your own words?” Particularly when you give directions or explain a concept, have your kids tell you kids tell you what makes sense and what you mean.
6.    Stop summarizing and reviewing -- and have the kids do it. Again, get out of your own way and ask the class what the directions or the concept is. If you hear yourself saying once again, remember, as I said, as always, so to sum this up, or don’t forget” for the millionth time, stop saying it. Your kids have then learned that they don’t really have to listen. They can tune you out. Instead, have them turn to a neighbor and restate the directions/concept or have volunteers or use a call-on system (like Classroom Dojo) and have your students restate the big idea or the summary or the procedure.

In an effort for ME to do LESS TALKING and allow YOU to do more, I’m going to shut up for today. I ask that, instead of me still typing, you think about if you can add or increase the use of any of those ideas above. Try to talk less and let the kids talk more (about content). I’m hoping – that once you and the kids get used to it – that you are LESS tired and the kids are MORE tired. Let me know how it goes!  

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