Saturday, November 22, 2014

Not everybody learns by reading and writing

That title seems like a "duh" kind of statement, but it hit me this morning as I was running (exercising my very weak kinesthetic) just how true this statement really is.  Two things happened to me this week that emphasized this to me.

First, I was working with this really great group of sixth graders Monday morning.  It's a group of five, and one of the five struggles - even in the small group setting.  She appears off task at times, and her answers come more slowly than the rest of the group as she is furiously scribbling her half-right answers on her white board.  I've come to reserving slots in my questioning just for her to be sure she is able to apply the skills we are practicing.

This week we were working on reading and writing multi-syllabic words - both real and nonsense (we use nonsense words to practice the skill without using words that they've memorized).  After a while of working vowel teams on our white boards, she started to shut down on me (or so I thought).  She capped her marker and just looked at me.  I decided to see what was going to happen next, so I went on to the next word.  Do you know what happened after that?  Once I asked her how to spell the next word she did it no problem!  Reading and spelling the words was so much easier once we got that marker out of the way!

On Wednesday while getting ready for work, my six-year-old son followed me around the house talking my ear off.  This child is highly interpersonal and rarely shuts up once he gets going.  He started talking about word problems, and of his own accord, told me he wanted to make up word problems.  For the next thirty minutes as I was putting on my makeup and flat ironing my hair, he and I went back and forth.  He totally got me on this one, "Zander makes three strikes in a row.  How many more strikes does Zander need to get a 300?"  The boy loves his bowling, and I (being the non-kinesthetic) know nothing about how many strikes it takes to get a 300.  Talk about lacking background knowledge!  I got the problem wrong with my answer of five.  He was happy to shout, "INCORRECT!" to me and ask me to try again.

What strikes me as funny here is that at our October parent-teacher conference his teacher expressed concern about his not completing his "math cards" (those don't sound like any fun) and that he needed practice on his word problems.  All done on paper.  Well, okay, but yet he just spent thirty minutes going back and forth doing word problems with addition, subtraction, and division AND a few were multi-step.  All in his head and with great stamina.

So is it realistic to try to keep our kiddos accountable aurally (by listening) and orally (by talking)?  Heck no!  I know that there are many of you out there with thirty plus students in every class, seven periods a day.  Not possible.  But consider doing some of the following to help some of your interpersonals and aurals out (I'm actually going to throw our musicals in there for a fun connection because so many of them are also aurals):

  • Ask them to partner up and give each other answers so they can write down each other's answers.
  • Ask them to create questions to ask each other in class.
  • Have them read out loud with a partner or in a small group.
  • Listen to music while they are completing independent work (Take caution in the type of music you choose.  My kiddos love my George Teleman, Paul Cardall, or Peaceful Holidays station on my Pandora.)
  • Listen to text on CD or online.
  • Teach them to study by talking to themselves (repeating things out loud and answering to themselves or others).
  • Record themselves on their phones or a computer and listen to it afterwards.
Using some of these quick tips along with other discussion strategies in your classroom and emphasizing them outside of the classroom will give those interpersonals, aurals, and musicals exactly what they need to feel more like they're accepted as learners.  You'll find that as you bring attention to their preferences and strengths they will be more likely to take risks and exercise them in your classroom to grow.  Have you had any success with any of these strategies in your classroom?  Share those with us in the comments below.  

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