Darn, I Was Gonna Say That

tony-anticipates-his-next-classI’m convinced that teachers who are starting out need to learn this lesson with time. It makes little logical sense to tell kids the answers but it serves a powerful function toward mastery when you are starting a new concept. Students often don’t answer because they do not know what is being asked of them. This can be the actual math or language arts of the thing or it could just be the manner and style in which the teacher expects the answer. Sometimes when students say the predictable phrase, “I was gonna say that,” they aren’t lying. They didn’t know what you wanted from them and that is a simple problem to remedy. At the introduction of the lesson, go around pucking random non volunteers by your chosen method, I use cards. Use this pattern: 1) Say the answer 2) Ask the question and 3) Ask the question again and pick a random non volunteer. This will inform them how to listen and answer questions and get you more familiar with their process. It sounds silly to give the answer and then ask someone to say it back but it really decreases their affective filter and makes them more comfortable branching out and taking risks. In short, they become more comfortable with you so you can ease into more higher order questions like “why is that the answer?”

While it may be obvious to some, remember this is not a cognitive standards based tip. You must teach the material before you ask questions to assess learning. Having said that, the interface and platform if you will of a particular classroom is always unique. Time should be taken to get the kids comfortable with your expectations. By setting them concretely at the beginning, you have a better chance of them learning something. It is like a stage where they are seated and prepared to be entertained only in this case, they are being taught. Every child longs to be right when she/he is called on. I recommend modeling as much as is possible and until at least 70% of the class appears to be answering in the manner you modeled. At that point you can stop expecting them to just say things back, make sure you tell them the expectation has changed and how, and expect higher order thinking and stating of answers. Take time before lessons, especially non-review first-time standards and objectives, to model how correct answers look and what you will be asking of them. You will find many more of your students come out of their shell and don’t have to say after the fact: “Darn, I was gonna say that.”