Monday, July 26, 2010

Saying Things Once

A couple months ago, I realized I was repeating my requests to my baby at least two times and often three. I know repetition is important for learning, but I was repeating things I knew he understood just because he wasn't doing them right away. (Like, "Go get your sippy cup." I figured he was going to start expecting everything repeated, so I started trying to only say things TWICE. This allowed me to be more patient and wait longer after my first request to see if he was going to complete it, then if not, I'd repeat it again. I tell you, it makes me feel more sane.

("Sit down in the chair!" is a popular request around here. Or at the beach, which is where the photo above was taken, hence the wicker, wood paneling, and cooler.)

I think that if I weren't a teacher, I might not be aware of this. Any teacher will tell you how maddening it is to give a couple directions, then say, "OK, any questions? Great, go ahead and begin!" and then have three kids say, "Wait, what do we do?" Of course, you have to check that you yourself have made directions clear, but if you know you have, then what you have is a case of "I've learned I don't have to listen carefully, because I know you'll do the work for me by repeating it for me personally later."

I noticed this a lot when I came back from my maternity leave. I very quickly taught them I was not going to repeat myself. I often had to explicitly say, "I am not going to repeat myself. I am only saying this once, so listen up." I would see them perk up and focus, which told me that indeed, they hadn't been focused before. (Hey, I understand- sometimes I'd a really bad listener.) After I had their attention, I'd give the directions, keeping it as simple and clear as possible, then ask if there were any questions, then answer the questions, and tell the kids to begin... and there would often be a kid who'd then come up to me and ask what to do. I used my judgment on whether or not the kid needed it repeated. If it was a student who I knew was confused, I'd re-explain. If it was a kid who I knew was just insecure that he or she was doing things right, I'd say, "No, you know what to do." Or I'd say, "Go ask someone at your table," because that way they'd know it was OK to ask for help, but that I wasn't going to re-explain, because I'd just said I wasn't going to re-explain. (You might think I was sending conflicting messages by only repeating it for certain kids, but the students understand that learners are different, and I explain from the very beginning of the year that we all have strengths and weaknesses as learners.)

Anyway, what I'm saying is, it's important to keep track of how you talk to kids. You want to be clear, but you also don't want to be a sucker and do all the work for them.

I also think it's kind of a life lesson: "Oh, you are confused? Well, you better figure it out yourself, whether that means trying to do it to the best of what you remember of the directions, or to ask for help wherever you can." But not from the person who just said, "Do not ask me."

If it looks like the students it stressed or upset, I'll help them- I'm not mean.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, if my kid doesn't do what I want him to do after the second request, I'll say it a different way, then just do it myself, or do it with him- whatever makes the most sense for the situation.

No comments: