Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I spent about ten minutes in the K-1 classroom at my school this morning and picked up the following tips about good teaching:
1) Timers can be useful. Nicky was leading a session that required the children to find words contained inside the word "thanksgiving", and I noticed that she used a timer. As I watched, it seemed clear that using the timer put a little extra pressure on the kids, which apparently was exactly what Nicky wanted. The students seemed especially focused and alert, some of which might have been the result of feeling the pressure of the ticking timer. (I'm heading out to shop for a timer later this afternoon.)
2) Students can be assistant teachers. As Nicky taught the lesson, a boy was standing beside her with a long pointer which he used to call on students. She would ask a question and the lad would thrust out his pointer at one student or another. He was obviously proud of his important duty.
3) Small white boards can be a helpful tool. While the children responded to Nicky, she wrote down their responses on a small white board in her lap -- just quickly, in words and phrases. Every so often she turned the board and showed the kids all their responses and praised them for their good work. It was obviously a wonderful way to take notes on a discussion and then reflect on what was said. (After I get the timer this afternoon, I'll look for a small white board.)
4) In crowd control, formulas work. At one point, when the children grew overly talkative, Nicky calmly said, "Five, four, three, two, one, zip those lips", and all lips were instantly zipped.
5) "Triple checks" also work. Toward the end of the session, the kids grew a bit restive, and the boy who was the assistant teacher called out, "Triple check!" and all the children together said, "Are you facing the speaker? Are you on your bottoms? Are your lips closed?" -- and instantly they were silent and ready to finish the lesson.
6) In the K-1, boys tie girls' shoelaces. As the students were leaving for PE, young Brian kneeled to carefully tie Emily's shoelaces. Everyone else was hurrying out, but he quietly proceeded with his gallant task, while the grateful Emily folded her arms and beamed.

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