by Judianne Jayme
A question I get asked when I reveal I’m an educator is, “What grade do you teach?”
After replying that I teach sixth graders, I see faces drop and eyes narrow. “Was that your first choice?” People are surprised that it genuinely is my first choice as an educator.
There is no “trick” when it comes to getting sixth graders to cooperate. There are definitely qualities you need to be successful in a Middle Years (grades 5-8) classroom. You need patience, you need to know when and how to put your foot down, and you need to have a sense of humor. You also need to understand your students along with their developmental changes they are going through (physically, emotionally, and socially).
While your job is not to get students to like you, the truth is that students will be more motivated to learn if they, at the very least, have a positive working relationship with you. It boils down to relationships and interactions. This is where purposeful teaching comes in.
Direct and Purposeful
I begin lessons with sharing the Intent, Task, and Criteria of the activity. Students become more motivated and independent when they understand why we are doing what we’re doing.
Having a list of instructions for the task explains what we are doing. The criteria is equally important. This answers how we know we are doing our task correctly.
I take this process a step further by getting students to collaborate in filling in the criteria with me. By doing this, I prevent myself from doing the thinking for my students. Usually, they come up with criteria that I would not have thought of! This is the importance of giving them that voice. This is direct teaching.
Children are naturally inquisitive about the world around them. We do them a disservice when we set their questions aside, especially the question of “why?” This question, if attached to an action, is attempting to identify the intent of that action you are requesting of them.
“Why do I have to go bed early?”
“Why do I have to do the dishes?”
“Why do I need to take medicine?”
Instead of arguing with “because I said so,” or “because it’s good for you,” seek instead to ask “Well, why do you think that would be a good idea?” This is another perfect opportunity to guide children to make meaningful connections, to communicate their ideas, and to think for themselves! They will not always be correct, which is when we must address misconceptions, but the process of thinking becomes meaningful. You will have a deep thinker!
Parent Tip: What’s YOUR Intent?
Before your child can ask you why you are doing something, have your bases covered! While explaining an expectation, add the reason why it’s important. This will seem awkward at first. You will feel very “teacher-like” doing this. Eventually, it becomes second nature. You will no longer need to make a conscious effort to explain your intentions. I find that I do this, not only with my students, but with my colleagues and my family and friends as well. It has made all the difference. Good luck!
Educator & Mentor – Winnipeg School Division
Founder & Owner – JudiMeetsWorld
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