Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Get them talking....

I love linking up with Joanne for Spark Student Motivation Saturdays!

Sixth graders, in general, love to talk....they talk with their friends, they talk with their enemies.  They talk when they arrive to school in the morning, while they are standing in line, when they should be working, etc.   I think the only time they don't like to talk is when their parents ask them "What did you learn in school today?"--the answer to that is always "nothing."  So I have made a conscious effort this year to use their gift for gab to my advantage and I have them talk to each other all the time---about what we are learning.

A few years ago we were trained in Kagan active engagement strategies and I try to use the ones that get them up and moving.  I really like to use a modified version of inside/outside circles to have them share responses with each other.  In previous years, I would have to go outside because of a lack of space---and getting them organized into two facing circles was a nightmare.  This year I set my tables up into two longer rows to accommodate this strategy.  The students on the outside move and the students on the inside stay put.  And if I want to change it up a bit, I just have the two inside rows swap seats before we start.  Kids love it, and I love that it is more controlled and wastes less time.

I do have some students who have a hard time talking in groups---you know the kind--super shy and/or scared of looking "dumb" in front of their peers.  After they have written a response to a question (or questions) that I have posed, I will have them break into groups and I will plop a container of centimeter cubes down in front of each group.  I tell them that every time they speak, they need to take a cube.  I set a goal of everyone getting a minimal amount and also caution them to be aware of monopolizers.  It is interesting to see how each group encourages participation.

I also have been using many of the task cards that I have purchased over the years a bit differently.  I print out multiple copies and have them work on them in small groups.  For example, this week we were working on inferences.  I have some inference task cards that I have used for intervention previously.  This year I printed out a few sets of some black and white copies, quickly cut them apart, and handed them to each small group.  I told them that I knew that they would easily be able to come up with the answers---in fact, it would probably be too easy for them--but the goal that I had for them was to explain how they knew their answer was correct--I expected to hear "the text evidence that proves we are right is..." and "my background knowledge that leads me to this inference is..."   And not only did I hear them using the words, they complained when I stopped the activity.  It was one of those moments that fills your teacher's heart with joy.  And then it got better--they completed an independent practice worksheet on inferencing right after, and all but two supported their answers with background knowledge and text evidence--best results ever.  

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