Sunday, December 05, 2010

Listening to My Students

Me: Okay, we need to take a look at something that is getting in the way of our future college success--only one or two of you are completing the reading homework on any given night. I'm not going to get ticked off; I really want to know what's going on so that we can fix this.

Student: It's too hard.

Me: What do you mean by "too hard."

Student: We don't know what to underline in our active reading. We're not that smart.

Me: Well, I disagree that you aren't smart enough. What is difficult about the active reading?

Student: It distracts me having to stop and start.

Student: Yeah, how about you give us questions.

Me: Hmmm. I could do that. So, if I gave study questions to answer instead of asking you to read actively, you would try the reading each night?

Students (in unison): Yes.

Results: Still only one or two students complete the reading on any given night.

13 Comments:

At 12:34 PM , Blogger Underground Teacher said...

Even in science, I throw in a guided reading or guided notes for power point. Then I have ice cream sticks with students names on them for each class period, and call on them at random just to see if they are following along. It shakes them up because they don't want to be called on--so they actually pay attention, but it is fun for me in the process. Sometimes I call on the same kid over and over again just for kicks--it is mainly that kid that was a smartie pants.

 
At 12:37 PM , Blogger Underground Teacher said...

Oh, I also listen to my students when they think I can't hear them. I soak up all that information they talk about and used it against them at a later time.

I listen to everything they say. If something is too hard, I make it harder, and then it doesn't seem so difficult anymore. If they don't want to read, I add more pages, and they are thankful for the original assignment. I listen to their complaints, and then I give them something to complain about.

They stop complaining after that and start thanking me for things like paper they can actually write on instead of notes they have to write on their own paper.

 
At 6:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Underground Teacher-
The students in his class would not think that the style you describe is fair or sincere. They are vulnerable and so have made strong fake fronts to keep them from being hurt further by failure or any perceived attack.

@ Mr. McNamara-
Making connections between what they think is the answer and pointing out what they found in the text that tells them it's the answer is a problem best solved with practice.
Also the idea of using some text and some stored knowledge merged to make a foundation for your answer (opinion) is tricky for these guys. Most have little stored to bring out that is relative to the text.

These students are not used to solving problems at home or in class with more than a degree of separation from the literal answer. LOL
I can laugh but it is huge for them to put themselves out on that limb.
They have continued to resist any kind of thinking that takes them from their secure foundation.
Working with them is about trust and predictability. They have to rely on pattern and schedule to build trust before they can climb out of their cocoon and think in less concrete ways.

Emotional vulnerability (close to ED students’ style) will not allow extensive thinking and use of working memory. The fears they’ve built actually keeps them from the courage to try less direct thinking.

Do you model and practice with overheads?
Do you collect the homework papers and tell them it is not about how many are correct, but that you worked on it?

Putting scaffolding under these kids is difficult since one side of them says they are failures already and the other side knows they are afraid to attempt the task.

 
At 7:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Underground Teacher's methods. He(she?) is very evil - LOL. I don't buy the whole emotional vulnerability argument - seriously, they need to get over themselves and do the work or face the consequences. Collecting homework so you can give a grade for their ability to write words down on paper (a third grade skill) is a waste of time for a high school teacher. Grade them on a what they can prove they've mastered, not on some perceived need to bolster self-esteem. If they need self-esteem, offer tutoring, and then give them the kind of one-on-one help that will enable them to perform successfully on a particular assessment. This would help them to understand the connection between their own initiative and their ability to be successful.

 
At 6:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Anonymous #3: Anonymous #1 and Anonymous #2 are a great illustration of how hard it can be to teach children whose knowledge base is weak. Do you scaffold intensely, or do you call them on their unwillingness to struggle? Or maybe both?

 
At 10:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

from anon #1-

not just that their knowledge base is weak. yes, you can call them on not trying their best.
the group that he is dealing with (not his high college prep group i'd guess) is shying away from failure. they have seen it often and proven to their satisfaction that they cannot do this. Making a bridge to doing more difficult tasks is key.
some will never believe.
that's the nature of the beast. and i say- yes call them on not trying hard.
BUT show exactly what you want, practice some in class and be predictable.
Then some will come on board.

 
At 9:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, the anon numbers are getting difficult to keep straight, so I'm the former anon at timestamp 7:11. I'd like to throw this out about scaffolding and see how people respond - my experience is that if you do it intensely, it becomes an intense bore for students who don't need it. Yes, I know - differentiate - but can differentiated instruction be accomplished all the time? I don't buy in all the way to differentiation, nor do I think it works out as perfectly as the people who sell it say it does. Comments?

 
At 4:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First ANON and the one who called herself anon #1 here:

Hello 7:11 Anonymous,
I have to agree with you on both counts.

You have to pull back on the scaffolding as much as possible.
and yes, these kids are not porcelain.

You do want to get as much out of them and push them as far as possible without losing them.
And you are correct- all are not the same.

Still worth being aware that scaffolding can help most studnets in his particular group,
and being predictable helps students take more chances.

If you study motivation you will note predictability is a major factor in performance.

 
At 5:37 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Good discussion here. Sorry I'm not responding much...too busy trying to figure out why there are so many anonymous people in my world.

 
At 8:57 AM , Blogger Underground Teacher said...

You have to be anonymous these days because, apparently, there are people that cruise the internet looking for what teachers do and say when they are not at school and report them.

Facebook changed their settings one day, my profile was public for one day after taking extensive precautions to stay private, and I got in trouble soon after. That is why I am Underground.

I guess folks need to come up with a better user name for tracking purposes.

 
At 3:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

as the first anon in this series - i often use anon here - much easier than signing in to another account.
and yes- there are new policies coming out about staff - we represent our districts even out of school. at least now that i am retired so i do not have to worry about that.
Be very careful- no friending students, or remarks about identifiable staff. No remarks about parents or students!
Fireable offences.

 
At 3:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

as the first anon in this series - i often use anon here - much easier than signing in to another account.
and yes- there are new policies coming out about staff - we represent our districts even out of school. at least now that i am retired so i do not have to worry about that.
Be very careful- no friending students, or remarks about identifiable staff. No remarks about parents or students!
Fireable offences.

 
At 6:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto on earlier posts - I feel like a coward as "anon at timestamp 7:11" so I'll just risk it and say that my real name is Kate Middleton.

 

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