Inspired by one of my esteemed colleagues Brett “BB” Bradley, who illuminated our staff about the devastating effects of what he dubbed as the “February Funk.” He describes this annual phenomenon below:
Its cold. Daylight is short. Spring Break is way off in the distance. Enrollment and parent conferences are lurking. The weather and barometric pressure changes weekly. Your New Years diet is making you temperamental or you’re upset that you already stopped your new years diet. The pressure of testing is building. All of these contributing factors are the perfect breeding ground for February Funk. It creeps in slowly without you even knowing. Kind of like when you eat at an onion burger joint and everyone around you knows you just ate at an onion burger joint but you don’t smell anything.
While I admit, I cannot prevent the funk from making it’s way to our school, but maybe… just maybe… I can help mitigate the effects by sharing instructional practices and other reflections on a weekly basis in a segment I will call:
My plan is to provide quick and easy-to-implement strategies or reflection questions each Tuesday. I didn’t choose Tuesday for the alliterative value alone; I chose Tuesday because it is early enough in the week to consider actually implementing some of these strategies.
Each week I will post a general topic and a Just Try-It challenge for the week. These challenges won’t be the answer to all of your woes – but some of them may work. I would love to hear if anyone implements any of these strategies or has any other insights regarding the weekly challenge.
This Weeks Challenge
Just Try-It Challenge: During whole class questioning ask yourself “Are ALL of my students thinking about the answer to every question I ask?” If the answer is no, then change something you are doing.
Chances are you will be asking questions to your students during whole class instruction at some point this week. A lot of time we get into the habit of allowing ONLY volunteers to answer questions. It sounds like this:
“Who can tell me…”
“Does anybody know…”
We often do this because of the time and pressure we are under to simple get through the content. This type of questioning isn’t always bad, BUT we must keep in mind that by allowing only volunteers to answer we are also allowing a large majority of the class to not think about the answers to these questions. I am not just talking about defiant students who shamelessly put their head down or ear buds in during lecture (although they are certainly part of this majority). I am talking about those students who are very skilled at hiding in plain site. The compliant, yet un-engaged student, who makes eye contact and occasionally nods in agreement while you discuss the content, but perform poorly on assignments.
How do I get all of my students to think about the answer to every question?
1. Cold Call students. Ask the question –> Pause (wait time) –> Say students a name
- Saving the name until the end of the sequence gives ALL students time to think about the answer before they know who has been called on.
- Cold Calling students sends the message that at any given time every student may be held accountable.
2. Have students commit answers to writing.
- This technique works best for Open Questions (questions with infinite number of answers) and Opinion Questions (questions that don’t have right/wrong answers).
- When students have their answers written in front of them, it is easier to Cold Call them, because they already have something to share.
- Having students write answers helps to guarantee that they have, at the very least, thought about the question.
3. Chaining Questions: Asking questions of a student and after that student answers asking the same question or a related question of another student.
“What is the first step I need to do to solve this problem? John?”
“Why do I need to do that? Jane?”
“Can you tell me another way to do this? Joe?”
- Mixing Cold Call with Chaining Questions makes for lively pace which helps keep kids engaged.
- Chain Questioning enables teachers to scaffold questions from simple to complex and push more thinking onto the students rather than doing all of the explaining.
I am sure there are many other ways for you to help ensure that ALL students are thinking about the answers to ALL the questions you ask. If you have something that works for you please let me know in the comments section.