If you ask my students what I do with their work after each intervention session, you are likely going to hear them respond, “She tosses it in the trash.”
Now before you write me off as an apathetic educator, let me explain.
I’ve only been teaching for five years. But, I’ve had multiple experiences in a variety of classrooms and there tends to be a common theme in each and every one of them. Kids are afraid to fail. They are afraid to mess up. And they – desperately – seek out the answers in your eyes. They are hesitant to respond and will look up at you – searching your facial expressions to see if they will give them the answer they need. And if, for some reason, you – the teacher – break face for even a second, they frantically erase what they’ve written as if to eliminate all evidence of having the wrong thing down on paper.
For the last 15 minutes of my intervention groups, I hand each kid a piece of paper and spend that chunk of time practicing our spelling and our sentence writing. My students have a lot going against them. Some of them have deficits in phonological awareness. Others have difficulty keeping the sounds in their memory for long enough to get it down on paper. So, my job as the interventionist is to teach them strategies to overcome these barriers.
Cooper is a student of mine who struggles when writing two-syllable words.
So, together, we practice breaking two-syllable words apart because hearing the sounds in each syllable is much more manageable for him. (For example, we break the word “napkin” into “nap” and “kin” and, suddenly, spelling is a whole lot easier for him).
All of the kids sit together at one long rectangular table as I dictate the words I want them to spell. At the beginning of the year, many students would discreetly (or not-so-discreetly) side-eye their neighbor’s paper to make sure they wrote down the word correctly.
So, in September, when the side-eyes were outta control, I stopped what we were doing and asked my kids, “What do you think I’m going to do with this paper when you guys walk out this door?”
Cooper responded, “Grade them?”
“No,” I said. “I’m going to toss it in the trash. I don’t care if your answers are right or wrong. I don’t yell at you when you mess up. Because when you get it wrong, it gives us all an opportunity to learn from your mistake.”
This is true. I don’t wait until the end of the “spelling” portion to give the students feedback on which ones are right and which ones are wrong. When I notice a child making an error, I prompt them to use the strategy and try it again. Right then and there. This gives them the immediate feedback they need and reminds them of the strategy over and over again.
And then, when the 15 minutes comes to an end, the students have practiced using the “break apart” strategy multiple times, I have taken note of the students who continue to struggle in a specific area, and the papers make their way toward the trashcan.
So, if you happen to be walking by my classroom, and you hear a child yell, “She’s going to throw it in the trash,” they’re reminding their fellow classmates to put something down on paper – to write without fear – because this is nothing more than a learning opportunity for them.
Question of the Day:
- How do you remind your students it’s OKAY to fail?