We Wait for Naomi

We Wait for Naomi

Naomi started in September, a quiet young woman with a wary eye. She began to say “I pass” immediately upon hearing the classroom rule, Pass if you want to.”

We were team teaching the literacy class, in two interconnecting rooms. In one we held group sessions in reading, writing, math and science; in the other students could work individually on assignments or on private literacy work (filling out forms, reading and responding to business letters, etc.). We teachers scheduled ourselves so that we each taught some of the group sessions, and spent the rest of our time in the other room, helping students individually. Students were free to choose to take the scheduled classes, or to spend time working on their own. Some students spent all their time in the group sessions, and did assignments at home; most divided their time between the two rooms.

Naomi was different. She chose not to go to any scheduled classes. Every hour or so, as the group activity changed, one of us would invite her to join the next group session.  She would pass. The teachers figured it might take her a few days to get comfortable enough to join the group. Continue reading

Just Say “I Pass.”

Just Say “I Pass.”

When I took bridge lessons many years ago, our teacher asked us to go home and practice bidding. “Just look in the mirror,” he instructed us, “And say, ‘I pass.’ That is the bid that you’ll make most often.  And that is the bid that will keep you out of trouble as a beginner.”

We don’t play bridge in my literacy or ABE classes, but I do teach people to say the magic phrase, “I pass.” My second classroom rule is “You can pass if you want to.” Continue reading

Read a Book a Week

Read a Book a Week

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“Read a book a week” is the assignment I finally came to for all my literacy and ABE classes. It was Debbie who got me there. I don’t know about you, but when I started teaching, I used the same  ways of doing things that my teachers had used. I had watched teachers for 12 years in school, and then for four years at university. Talk about on-the-job training! A year in the Faculty of Education did very little to dull the impressions made by watching teachers teach, year-in, year-out. Continue reading

Who’s Engaged Here?

Who’s Engaged Here?

When I help students see and articulate what they do know, they may notice areas where they have trouble. For example, someone may say, “I make most of my mistakes when the denominators are different,” or “I get mixed up because I don’t know when to double the letter if I’m adding ‘ing.’”

When a student notices where he makes errors, that is a big step, a huge leap forward in learning.  But it is quite different from me telling him where he needs help. When he analyzes his work and notices the patterns of errors he makes, it is a sign that he is fully engaged in the process, and has taken control of his learning.

When I analyze his work and point out the pattern of his errors to him, it is a sign that I am fully engaged in the process, but he may or may not be paying attention. (from Marking for Confidence)

Refuse to Be Bored      (A Second Look)

Refuse to Be Bored (A Second Look)

English: A bored person

English: A bored person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both Jenny and Evelyn commented on my last post, “Refuse to Be Bored” to the effect that the rule is easier to describe than to implement. I agree, because I know I found it difficult to learn to do.I’m writing this blog with the benefit of hindsight; and the rule about refusing to be bored, as I set it out in my post last week, did not come easy to me, nor did it fall into place all at once. I know that at first when students had the temerity to suggest that they didn’t want to do something, I got, as Jenny said, defensive. Continue reading

Refuse to be Bored

Refuse to be Bored

I don’t have many rules in my classroom, but the most important one is “Refuse to be bored.”

So when I say, on the first day of term, that the first rule is to refuse to be bored, students are surprised. For one thing, most adults going back to upgrade their skills expect to be bored. Their experience of school is one of large stretches of boredom, accompanied by more or less anxiety, and interspersed with flashes of panic. Why would my class be any different? Continue reading