Thursday, 15 January 2009

Seriously.... Let's not be too serious.

I like to learn from my kids.
I think it's a good attitude to have - that a teacher can learn just as much from their students.

One of the most important things I've learned is the ability to lose my seriousness and just have fun!

How many times do teachers get so bogged down by all the "serious" stuff?
Paperwork, noisy children who won't listen, advise and opinions coming in left right center, the dripping aircon, the marker that just ran out of ink.....

It's not that important!

What's more important is what we convey to our students.

Sometimes I'll say something really serious like "Class, I have something important to tell you..." with the most serious of serious faces... only to complete the sentence with:
"... I'm so proud of the progress you've all made as a class!"
Accompanied by a huge grin.

Sometimes I stop mid-sentence and ask "do you hear that?"
And we spend the next few minutes listening to bird calls.

Or sometimes I'll just give them silly faces or silly answers.

Our students are always looking to follow our lead.
When we show them that we are result-driven and that all we want is a class full of robotic beings who listen to all instructions to a "T", and who get straight A's regardless of their true ability to think critically or mind other peoples' feelings... well, then what we are simply conveying to them is that we don't care about them.

This does not make anyone motivated.
Not motivated to cooperate,
Not motivated to learn,
Not motivated to be happy.

So instead, when we lighten up the atmosphere by learning from children's innate ability to want to make anything and everything fun and play... we show our students that we value and respect them.

This is the best motivator a student could have.

The Secret Box

What is one thing that all human beings love?

That's right - suspense!

People of all ages love a good mystery... kids even more so.
So one of the little systems I have in my classroom is a Secret Box.

Using a very fashionable shoe box (I'm all for recycling!), I started collecting various knick knacks - some real gems like ice-cream coupons and chocolate bars, some fun flukes like heart-shaped balloons and tiny pieces of wrapped candy. Anytime I see something I think would be interesting to add to the box, I do one of these two options:
  1. Put it in the box secretly.
  2. Make a big show out of putting it into the box so the kids know something interesting is going in.

My Secret Box is a veritable stash of good fun, and can be used for different situations:

  1. To accompany certificates during my monthly class award presentation,
  2. Random lucky draws from the Caught Doing Good jar (more about that in this post),
  3. Birthdays
  4. Student of the Week

I will add a picture to this post soon - camera's not in use right now.

In the meantime, why not start your own secret box?
If you do, please link up to this post (if you have a blog) with pictures etc... or just sign my guestbook/write a comment about YOUR Secret Box, tell me what novel items you placed in it, and what your students' reactions were.

By the way, try it with any age group - you'd be surprised at the results! ;)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Competitive Cooperative Groups

One great way I am able to motivate my students to work fast and well together is by using a competition based cooperative grouping.

Here's the run-down:

  1. Group students into groups of 4-5. (Randomly)

  2. Have groups give themselves a group name and designate group jobs:

    Group Jobs:
    *Group Leader - helps repeat instructions that the teacher gives to any student in the group that missed it the first time, manages the group, is responsible for the cooperation of the group.
    *Book Passer - collects and passes out any homework/letters/textbooks, etc.
    *Time-keeper - Keeps track of the time the group takes to do any given activity.
    *Encourager - Uses positive language and moderates the group's overall well-being.
    *Shhh Manager - Monitor's group's noise level.
    *Group/Team Job - Each group is responsible for one thing in the class. For example, keeping the Reading Corner clean and tidy, or making sure no one leaves anything behind at the end of the day.

  3. A point system is used for any activity/procedure/task... and I mean ANY.
    For example:
    Class is too noisy, so teacher writes on the board:
    "Noisy groups get -5 points, first group to do their work quietly get 10 points"
    OR (say to class)
    "First 2 groups to get all their group members' homework handed in get 30 points"
    Works conversely like this:
    "Flaming Dragons, your team needs to cooperate and not fight - minus 10 points for fighting."
    Points can also be given for class teamwork done (see earlier video on Science Revision)
    Points can be added or subtracted depending on how well groups do their group/team jobs.

  4. Points are accumulated till the end of the month, and the group with the most points gets certificates and a prize.

  5. After prizes have been given, groups are shuffled so that students have a chance to learn to work cooperatively with other students of different personality/abilities/temperaments/academic level.

  6. Repeat every month!

This kind of ongoing competitive cooperative group strategy can be utilized in many ways.
I will add posts as I remember any good pointers on how to use the groups and link them to this post, but this here is the basic gist of it.

Feel free to rate and comment.

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