As many of you are moving into the last month of summer and will resume studies in the fall, I thought I might share with you a few ideas to tuck in your heart.
First, when you get back to your studies and are ready to present your first lessons don’t forget to “start with what they know.” It is so much fun to begin a lesson by finding out what your students already know about a subject. Children enjoy having something to contribute to the lesson time, if we can only ask in non-threateningways.
Now, I wouldn’t try this by saying, “We studied this last year and you *should* remember this. Tell me the facts about…” That sort of questioning would not bless anyone or excite them into the possibilities of the lesson at hand. But it is better, to say something more like, “Wow! Did you see the frog our story today?” “Wasn’t it in *Andy in the Circus* that we studied tadpoles last year?” “Did you enjoy that as much as I did?” “Can you remember how they grew?” “Have you seen any tadpoles yet this spring? Maybe we’d better begin to look for them. Do we know anything else about frogs?” In a light, enjoyable, way you can ask a few gentle questions and sometimes you will be quite surprised at what your child already knows about a subject. You can then fill in with new information and let your older student’s excitement (activated and charged by your original questions) continue to educate him, as he pursues the subjects through his own reading and research.
In a slightly different vein from learning to ask questions that promote excitement and finding out what your student already knows, here is an exchange between a Rower and myself about being amazed at what your student can accomplish.
Jane Claire: “May I use this for Think on These Things? I thought this would be a good reminder to moms about giving your child free reign with a project.”
Leslie: “I think this is a great reminder. We often underestimate the abilities of our children – and if we don’t give them a chance to figure things out on their own, to make their own mistakes and have their own successes, then we are limiting how much they can learn.
While I love to see the “light of understanding” go on in my child’s eyes when I am explaining something, it’s a different and wonderful thing to see them discover a truth for themselves. What a sense of pride and accomplishment they have in a job well done.
Just yesterday, I asked Christopher to type up 5 facts about Millard Fillmore (ie. Becky’s 5 fast fun interesting facts). I said this somewhat in jest as Christopher doesn’t know how to type. Well, he went off on his own after supper and did just that! I was so surprised. He asked why I was surprised that he knew how to create a word document. I told him that I didn’t even know that he knew what a word document was! I mentioned that maybe I could help him find a picture of Fillmore to go with his facts – well, he went back to work, found his own picture and completed a neat project! He was so proud of his work that he shared it with our neighbor. He is growing into a competent young man. I need to remember to give him room to grow.” So whether we are engaging in creative questioning, or in giving enough freedom to see what our students can do, we are becoming better teachers.
Here is one to ponder: Try not to be too quick to tell your student his answer is wrong. Certainly there are right and wrong answers to math, spelling and other subjects, but if you are too quick to say, “Wrong!” then you miss finding out what your student was actually thinking. How did he arrive at that answer or idea? Often there are some excellent thought processes that could be commended before redirecting the student toward the correct answer. For instance, a person draws a cube figure and asks how many sides it has. The correct mathematical answer is six. However, what if your student answered “four?” You could quickly snap out, “Wrong!” or you could ask him how he arrived at that answer. He might say, “Well it has four sides and a top and a bottom.” That is great thinking! You can say, “Wow! I never thought of that-this is true. But, mathematics is sort of like a language and in order for us to communicate with people all over the world we have to go by some rules. One of the rules is that when we determine the sides of a figure like this cube, we have to count all of the planes-and that would include the top and bottom. If that is true, then how many sides does a cube have *mathematically*?” Then your student would be able to say, “Six.” This type of teaching allows your student the freedom to think (and be commended for his thoughts), and still learn to abide within the rules of a discipline like math. Finding out *how* your student arrived at an incorrect answer is also helpful in steering him toward discovering the correct answer. And, this idea can be adapted to any of the learning disciplines.
Our children are great and amazing thinkers and their thoughts deserve serious respect and admiration, even when we need to redirect parts of the answers to fit a discipline. In this way, they feel confident in thinking their own thoughts and don’t feel the sting of feeling that they are never able to “think right.” As you apply this concept, you will be moving even further down the road in your quest to become a truly great teacher.~Jane Claire Lambert