Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Once is Not Enough

oneIn  Management Monday V - Once is Enough from Sloggett Bloggett, Kim states,

“Don’t ever say “Are there any questions?” because there WILL be! Make sure the students are looking at you when you say the “once” speech and at times that you are giving instructions. Once students realize that you will not be repeating yourself and only smiling back at them, they manage just fine. I promise you; you will never regret the decision to use ‘ONCE.’”

I tend to agree with Kim that students don’t pay attention and it is a bad habit we need to break. But I feel we need to teach them skills to break this bad habit.

I disagree with her about this “once” technique to get students to follow directions. Many of my students have trouble processing what they hear and they may still be thinking about the first direction while the teacher is now talking about step number ten. Of course, this student will have questions and now be afraid to ask them. Even if my students are looking at the teacher, they may not be processing what is being said. Many of my students get to a point where they are so lost just hearing the directions that they get distracted. If they feel the teacher has given up on them, they will give up on even trying.

I think the key is to have these directions available in different ways. For my students, I try to think about the process of everything we do and write out the steps. I know this takes longer in my lesson plans but it really helps my students succeed and takes a lot of stress out of the lesson right from the start. Everyone is given a written copy of the directions and I also read over the directions. I ask students to repeat the directions back to me. I also encourage them to ask me questions if they get to a road block and can’t figure out what to do next. After giving them the directions, I then model what is expected of them so they can see me going through the steps to complete the task.

By giving those written directions. auditory directions, as well as modeling, they are able to focus better on what needs to be done. By having the students repeat the steps also help them process the directions. Then by alleviating their stress by letting them know that I am there to help them, they are able to relax more to process what is being expected of them.

If a student is not focusing on instructions, that student needs to be redirected. If this student has this problem often, then I will meet with the student privately. At this point, I will ask the student if there is a problem with focusing on the directions and how can I help them focus better. There may be something I’m not doing that could help the student. I also explain how disrupting their behavior can be to others and hinders their learning. I have found this one on one interaction sometimes reveals a situation at home or at school that I was not aware of and is bothering the student and is distracting. By showing I care, this student usually makes a better effort at paying attention to the instructions at the beginning of the lesson. I also don’t find myself doing this too often, because I have taken preventative steps during my planning.

When my students go to general ed classes, some teachers just give auditory directions and do not repeat the directions or allow questions. When this happens, many of my students shut down or act up. This is frustrating for the teacher, the other students in the class, and even for my student (who really does want to succeed but feels it is impossible).

What do you do to get your students pay attention to directions? Please share.

Original image: 'one is the loneliest number' by: Jeff Meyer


Molly said...

Having directions available in a variety of ways is useful. After a few years of teaching, I realized that my directions were not always clear (or golden.) If someone asked for clarification, I responded. Sometimes, it is useful to have another student explain, and sometimes using different words to explain is effective. Sometimes pointing to the specific written directions when restating works. Finally, when possible, model the instructions.

loonyhiker said...

@Molly I like the idea of having another student explain. As you mentioned, sometimes hearing it from a peer helps them see it from the right perspective.

Anonymous said...

I did what Molly does when I was in the classroom. Having them ask a peer first sometimes is all it takes. I taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders over the years...I called getting directions restated from their peers "student talk". If after asking 2-3 students, they still didn't understand, then I would restate the directions slightly different from before. I also tried to have directions posted or on paper for the students.

loonyhiker said...

@PMatthews Students just love having permission to talk!Just don't tell them they are actually learning something when they do this. This brings back memories when my mom would play "dumb" (I didn't realize this until I was older) and she had me explain what I was doing for homework and why I was doing it. She was a smart woman even though she never had a teaching degree!

Perfect Dad said...

I read the original post and I liked it. Gives the kids a choice and a way out: They have to find the information elsewhere if they miss it. There should be room for questions though, because what seems clear to the teacher who is moderating the exercise may not be clear to the student even if they are paying attention.

loonyhiker said...

@PerfectDad I think choices are important too. Thanks for your comments.

luckeyfrog said...

I can definitely see her point. I don't think 'once' is enough, but for an activity similar to one students have done before (and I have modeled), I usually tell the students once and have another student repeat it back, and that is generally enough.

It took time to get to that, and training listening skills first, but we felt that it was vital that our kids be able to listen to directions better than they were doing. We were finding that often, the students wouldn't know what to do- not because they were confused, but because they hadn't paid attention, so it is an area my co-teacher and I have taught and rewarded.

AS_4_569 said...

I have to say, I definitely do NOT agree with the "once" notion. So much about the English language is left open to interpretation, and view point, that I find that students and other adults get bogged down in the language of what we are saying, and not necessarily the content. Especially with students at the younger ages, directions and information need to be stated in a few different ways, in order to make sure they are not getting confused about your specific word choice. In other words, to restate what you already said but in different terms. When I was assisting a professor at the college level in Chemistry, my mother gave me one of the most interesting anecdotes I can remember, she said, "you will learn more this semester teaching this subject, than you did when you took the class, because the students' understanding of the subject will force you to restate your instructions multiple times, because students all understand and learn differently."

As a teacher, I believe we need to take the time, and care to make sure our students aren't bogged down on the topic because of the language and word choice we use.

loonyhiker said...

@AS_4_569 Your mother was a wise woman! I think the choice of words and body language can also be very distracting to our students. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post!

Anonymous said...

I also agree once is not enough. I totally understand how directions need to be repeated whether or not one is paying attention. Since I am hearing impaired, I know I am focused and following the speaker since I have to lip read. Since I can hear with hearing aids, I still depend more on my lip reading for comprehension. With that said, I have acclimate to the speaker. Many times people speak fast, don't enunciate, or may have a regional accent. On top of that if there are other noises around me it is very challenging to hear the full set of directions. I always give my students the benefit of the doubt and not assume they are not paying attention. I have been fortunate enough to have small groups of students, so I don't mind the repetition as needed.

loonyhiker said...

@Anonymous That is exactly why I say that teachers should not automatically assume that students are not paying attention if they need things repeated. Due to different learning styles, students process information at different speeds and in different ways. Thanks so much for commenting from your point of view.