That’s good advice. Giving your students opportunities to “teach” each other gives them chances to exercise many skills and build their abilities as leaders and persuasive speakers. Whether working in pairs or reporting to the whole class, writing an essay or short story, or debating a point, give students opportunities to engage with content and feed it back.
One final point: HOW your students may solve problems or interpret your directions and assignments can be a surprise – usually pleasant but sometimes not. You may have a clear idea of how you expect they will answer questions, perform in role plays, etc. But they may have “filters” to do with their own background and limited experiences of life. They may come up with very imaginative solutions to problems. Perspectives, attitudes, degrees of maturity all affect problem-solving in children as well as adults. Remaining open and really listening to the students as they share their interpretations can be the best teaching.
Set them problems to resolve. Let them use their creativity and critical thinking skills to solve problems in their own ways. Getting students to “take ownership” of content and problem-solve independently can provide important insights and lessons for both students and teacher.
One of the pleasures of teaching is seeing your students gain greater confidence through successfully resolving various problems. Help them succeed by giving them the freedom to fail. And teach them to persist!
If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again!
Before the end of class, be sure to give your students something to think about when they are at home. Class does not end at the final school bell. Encourage them to think through the day gone by before they go to sleep. What did they learn that day? It does not have to be a written assignment; you can give students a problem to try to solve overnight and bring in their ideas the next day (a great way to start the next warm-up!).
Homework assignments can be a burden or a tool for in-depth, independent learning. Again, as always, try to step into their shoes. Consider their circumstances when making assignments to be done at home:
- If the students have several teachers or several subjects to cover, how many hours will it take for them to complete all the assignments?
- Are their parents supportive of home study time?
- How will they get the work done if they have other after school activities or classes to attend?
- How much homework is expected or required by your department, school or administration?
- How much homework is appropriate to their age level and abilities?
- How much is appropriate for the time of year, holidays, breaks and other factors?
The Closing Moments
Remember the teacher who let her students go without confirming the end-of-the-day procedure? The closing moments of a class are your opportunity to reconfirm and underline the most important lessons of the day.
What do you want them to remember ‘out in the real world?’ Give yourself a few key phrases to use to remind them of the day’s lessons. You might write them on the board.
Tip: Prepare a “Take Home” Envelope
At the end of the first day, the students each take home an envelope of materials from me to their parents. If there is time in class, you can have the students assemble these. In each envelope, there is a “Welcome Letter” from me, a page about grade level expectations, and a copy of my discipline plan.