It’s all about tactics…
We’re reading this book by Doug Lemov on how to improve K-12 teaching, figuring it should help us with college and graduate students too, even if not everything transfers over. This book is really awesome because it’s about tactics. What are techniques that you can actually use to get students to pay attention, keep listening, behave themselves and learn (mostly remember) the material. It’s a great book with lots of great tips in a classroom setting. Little nitty-gritty details.
We’ve had it in mind as we go through the summer, applying it more to a pre-K setting.
Example. So DC says to me the other morning, “Ms B said if I flipped my flip flops one more time, she was going to wear them.”
“I think that means she wanted you to stop.”
“You were probably disturbing her or other kids.”
“Really?” DC asked incredulously.
“Did you stop?” I asked.
“No, I flipped them two more times. But Ms B didn’t put them on,” ze replied, disappointed.
I think what we have there is a failure of Ms B to communicate. DC honestly had no idea that she wanted hir to stop flipping or why on earth she would have wanted that. With kids a certain age, it’s best just to be direct. “DC, please stop flipping your flipflops. It is bothering me.”
Also while we’ve been reading this book, DC has started swimming lessons. The first session ze had an experienced and short woman teacher. DC behaved like an angel and progressed marvelously. Second session, DC had a tall inexperienced male teacher. DC acted up in ways that we rarely see hir act up. And so did most of the other kids in that group. We were constantly reminding DC to listen to the teacher because swimming pools are dangerous and it is important to listen. (Indeed, on the last day of class, DC fell into four feet of water and took a while to fish out, but was oddly unfazed. DH, otoh, almost had a heart attack.) DC claimed ze just didn’t hear when the teacher said to stop splashing or to stay away from the slides. He would also give up on kids doing the right thing too soon, and would make idle threats that he never followed through on.
DH spent some time over these sessions comparing what it was that the first teacher and the second teacher were doing differently, especially on occasions with the tall male teacher when the students actually behaved. Specifically, the kids behaved on the days when they were in the big pool instead of the smaller one where they could stand on their own without life jackets. In the big pool, they had to sit on a mat for safety reasons when it wasn’t their turn with the teacher. And, importantly, in the big pool, the tall teacher was the same height as the kids, not towering over them. It was easier for them to listen to him.
Supernanny was right. It is important to get down to the child’s level when you’re trying to get them to behave, listen, or obey a command. Second, when they’re bored, they’re going to act up. Give them something to do and limit their possible actions. Too much freedom can lead to pushing that freedom too far, and not being in a position to pay attention to the teacher. Finally, as before, follow through with commands and threats. If you give up too early, then they have more reason to ignore your commands and threats.
These are all tactics. Not high flung philosophies and so on, but concrete small things that improve the experience for everyone and help increase learning because of that. It is easier to learn when kids are not distracted and it’s easier to teach when kids are well-behaved.
So that’s our recent experiences in getting pre-K and K-12 folks to pay attention and learn stuff. We wonder what bleeds over to college students…