How many times has this happened to you? You write a great lesson with what you know are succinct directions and after you hand out the directions and say, “Begin!” a line of kids, fifteen deep forms in front of you? Aghhhhhh! I have three solutions and a theory.
Ask the kids to read the directions carefully and when they are done, raise their hands. Quietly wait until all kids have finished. This allows time for everyone to read and digest. Then ask all the kids to explain the directions to their partner, table, best friend, ANYONE! This gives time for the all important social learning and takes a very short amount of time.
After handing out the paper with the directions, write on the board “C3B4Me”. This stands for “See three before me.” Allow the kids to ask one another questions before they begin. They can come to me only after they have seen three others.
Most kids have the same questions and can get answers from one another. If four or more kids do not know the answer, I need to change something! Typically the question is a confusing word or direction. I alert the class of the common misconception. Sometimes it is because I taught it poorly. I’ll stop class, teach again, then go on. Their questions direct my teaching.
On an aside, I do a five minute lesson I call, “Who is the smartest person in the room?” before writing C3B4Me. I ask who is the smartest in the room. In 7th grade they point to me, in 8th they point to the gifted kid in the class. Go figure. I then tell them to point to the person across from them and I say that this person is the smartest. Then point to the person next to them and I sat this person is the smartest, etc. I explain how learning is diverse and one person may understand something better so classmates are great resources. The kids may complain how this is cheating so if I have the time, we get into a discussion about controlling your own learning.
Do both of the above.
Although my human nature tells me the kids don’t know how to read and I’ll complain about their refusal to follow directions, I am wrong. My theory is kids are fiercely afraid to fail. They go to fight or flight mode emotionally after I tell them to start. They don’t need extra reading time! They need validation, positive reinforcement, and the simple sentence, “Yep, you got it right!” The problem is I have 30 kids and I get sick of validating what seems to be a million times. “Did you READ the directions?”, I scream. Of course they did, they simply need someone to say they understood it correctly. By allowing kids the chance to learn socially, they have one another and are not dependent upon me. Perhaps predictably, the only kids still needing me to validate them are the gifted kids. Anyone surprised?