Ah. If only there was a magic formula for making better students! I am convinced that teaching is one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Every child is different, every group of children has a different dynamic, and every day holds new challenges and experiences. So, how do we make better students? Well, one way is to make us better teachers. There is always room for improvement, right? Right!
Here are some simple ways to encourage your students’ learning process. These are based on the TESA program which suggested fifteen ways we can better interact with our students.
1. Wait for an answer! How simple is that and yet some teachers struggle with those moments of silence. But, we need to allow students time to think over their answers and to respond. Do you ever get frustrated with your husband because he can’t tell you where he wants to go to dinner or which lawnmower you should purchaser? He may be a processor. Many of our children are processors and they need time to think through the question you have asked. The other key is to not call on the first raised hand. If you have more than one student, make sure several or all of your students know the answer before calling on a student.
2. With praise, give a reason. Don’t just say, “Good job!” or “Great work!” Tell your students what they did that was good. Think of this situation. Four-year-old Amy is coloring a picture of animals in a field. She spends time carefully coloring the trees and the flowers, but then she quickly colors all the animals brown so she can leave the table and go play with blocks. When you look at the picture and say, “Good job!” how is she to know if you like the trees or the animals? Instead, if you say, “Amy, I liked the way you carefully colored the trees and flowers. They look just like the ones at the farm we visited,” then Amy knows what she did that was good. When students know what the preferred behavior is, they are more likely to repeat it.
3. Equitable Distribution of Response Opportunity. These are big words for saying we should make sure everyone has an equal chance of being called on. It’s very easy in a classroom to just call on the children who raise their hands. However, when you do that, you are letting students know if they didn’t prepare for class or don’t feel like answering, then all they need to do is not raise their hand. Instead, we want students to be prepared and engaged in every lesson. A few suggestions: Old school – Have popsicle sticks with each student’s name on them. Each time you ask a question, pull a popsicle stick to choose which student answers. High tech – there are apps that will randomly choose names for you. “Stick Pick” is an app that picks random names for you.
These are some very simple ways of improving student interaction. There are so many more! If you’re interested in additional ways you can better interact with your students, check out this website http://www.mikemcmahon.info/tesa.htm or this pdf http://schoolfile.org/index_files/u4/tesa.pdf.