“I want to do one thing and do it well.” - Jan Koum
Yesterday I posed two questions for my students to answer . . . .
1) What one thing makes you feel happy to spend time in a classroom?
2) What one thing makes you a successful learner?
To help students honestly share their feelings, I told them their responses could be anonymous. I was eager to read their responses to these questions. Having a student teacher, I was looking forward to sharing these thoughts with her as she plans both her interactions and her instruction with 30 very busy 4th graders. I was also curious to learn their responses for my own learning. While I had an expectation of what they might write, I was looking forward to learning if their responses matched my predictions.
Needing a way to categorize their answers, I started a tally sheet. The response to the first question fit into a theme. The majority of the answers had to do with an outside force – friends, teachers, and classroom atmosphere. The need for good friends was the most popular response, followed by a classroom with a calm, happy and kind teacher. The word kind was somewhat of a happy surprise. What a good reminder that kindness is valued by all people, no matter their age. The most mentioned word used to describe a classroom atmosphere was positive – students appreciated an environment where questioning was valued.
It was time to move on to the second question: What one thing makes you a successful learner? The answers to this question were evenly split between both external and internal forces. The external forces were: I learn best in a classroom with a happy teacher and where I receive encouragement to keep trying. The remaining answers were more centered on personal reflection: In order to learn I need to listen and pay attention. Many students commented on their own learning style – In order to be a successful learner I need time to practice and I need to not be rushed. One girl wrote: I need to learn things in steps. I need to be taught the easy steps first, then have it get harder and harder. Wow – what an insight into the concept of scaffolding.
This simple activity has given me a new understanding of my students’ personalities, needs, and learning styles. While I began this exercise as a way to benefit a student teacher, it has also proved valuable for this veteran teacher.
I encourage you to ask your students these two basic questions and see how they respond. We would love to hear your results.
Darlene and Terry