So, there's a Linky Party over at Miss Kindergarten where you're supposed to post your best teaching tip.
I thought and thought about it and here's what I came up with:
MAKE THE KIDS WORK HARDER THAN YOU DO!
This took me a looonnnggg time to figure out.
But, once I did, my life and my teaching have been a lot happier :)
I used to spend the entire day talking to the kids. I mean, obviously I was teaching. But, I just talked and talked and talked and they sat and listened. I'd give them an activity and then I'd just talk them all the way through it. (Admit it, you do it too!)
And, every time we did a "craftivity" I would cut out 90% of it (spending hours of my free time) for them or make them do it exactly like my sample and then I'd proudly hang them in the hall and they'd all look EXACTLY alike. (Admit it, you do it too!)
But, last year, I realized something:
THE KIDS ARE THE ONES WHO SHOULD BE DOING ALL THE WORK!
I decided that I was working too hard. Yes, you heard me right. There is absolutely NO REASON why I needed to stay after school cutting stuff out for them. And, there is no reason why I need to talk all day long.
So, I stopped.
Now, I'll say right now that I still talk alot. I can't help it. And, I still cut stuff out for my kids on occasion because it saves class time. But, I do make a concious effort to make sure that my kids are working harder than me.
Here's how I do it:
1. When we're sitting at the carpet and I'm teaching, I am CONSTANTLY having my kids share with their shoulder partners. At the end of a page, I say "Tell your shoulder partner what you're thinking." Or, if we're doing an anchor chart, I tell them "Tell your shoulder partner what could go next on our chart." That way, they don't get to just sit there like bumps on a log.
2. We fill out graphic organizers until we're blue in the face. I pretty much NEVER just sit and read to my kids unless it's the last 5 minutes of the day. As we read, we're holding our clipboards and filling out information the whole time. I generally stop and give them a chance to write unless it's a quick-write kind of thing. I love that they are getting so good at writing their thoughts out as they are happening and not 15 minutes later after we've read the whole book!
Here's an example of what my kids do at the carpet while I'm reading. We talk about it while we're doing it but they decide with their partners what to write down.
3. We do a TON of projects. I know what you're thinking. Third graders can do that because they're older. My younger students could never! But, guess what? First graders can do it too! My littles last year were awesome at doing group projects and they learn so much: figuring things out on their own, social skills, teamwork PLUS the information you're trying to teach them. Oh, and they are so engaged because they're excited.
My first graders last year researched an insect completely on their own in teams and then created a poster about it. They then presented them to the class.
We did several of these throughout the year.
This year, my third graders do it every week. You can read some of my other posts to see how: specifically this one and this one.
4. Make them do the research. It's okay to hand a kid a book and make them look up the information. I know as a first grade teacher I was so used to reading a book to them and then writing all the information down on an anchor chart. But, kids can do it on their own! (see above) Let them make their own anchor chart! I promise they can do it. Now, with the third graders, pretty much weekly they have something that they have to look up and research on their own.
Third grade research for a famous person using computer and book sources.
And, as for the first graders...
they can do it, too.
5. Hand them a dictionary. Trust me, they can find words on their own and spell them. My kids will even go to Google and type in a word to see how it should be spelled. They look in their science/social studies books in the index. Because, they know I'm not going to spell it for them.
6. Stop making "craftivities" that are perfect. I'm not saying don't do them. I'm not saying they can't be cute. And, I'm speaking to myself right now because this one was the hardest for me to let go. But, I can proudly say that the only thing I've cut out for my kids this year were some picture frames that took five minutes and their "back to school" backpacks and I did that before the year started when I had some extra time. I even let the first graders last year do some of their own crafts.
Last year, my kids made these Wizard of Oz characters 100% on their own! I worried that they'd make a huge mess of them but just decided to let it go.. and, look how great they turned out!
Well, maybe except for the Dorothys... ha!
I let the kids use scrapbook paper to make plants to label and they turned out great, too. In the past, I totally would have sat there and cut all that out and then tried to control them as they glued it. Not anymore, friends. I'd rather give them the experience of doing it.
7. Make anchor charts interactive. The kids can write on them, too! It lets them have some ownership and they should be the ones working! My first graders LOVED it when I had them fill out the charts we made.
I let them write their class promise this year.
And, they wrote on most of those post-its.
Anyways, that's my tip.
Make the kids work harder than you do.
Do it for yourself and, more importantly, do it for them.