If at first…try, try again.

Today was another very challenging day at Central Middle that drove home a concept that we (the GK-12 fellows) have discussed in the past in our weekly meetings. Other fellows have commented to each other, and in the blog, that when things ‘just aren’t working’ in the classroom that often a small change can make a huge difference. Our first class period today was a disaster. The students were not focused, they did not do their work, had not completed the homework due for the day, and refused to learn a simple concept in the ‘simple machines’ curriculum. Frustration among the students, myself, and my teacher was evident and the class ended up with 16 detentions. 16!! However, one mantra of teaching should be…If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! We tried again to teach the content to the next two classes by adding minor tweaks to the material. First, we reduced group activity participation in partner teams instead of fours. Second, we play acted a particularly difficult concept. Third, we allowed them to talk to each other for 30 second intervals in between focused work time, giving them a moment to blow off steam. It worked, fantastically. The kids had fun, we felt as if they actually learned something, and there were no more detentions. I find it amazing how seemingly miniscule changes in teaching styles can make such a huge difference in participation, attentiveness, and learning.

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About Sarah Roels

I'm a former Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. I study mating system evolution in plants, using the model system Mimulus. I now work at Michigan State University as their GK-12 project manager.
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