Teach Less, Ask More

So here’s the thing. It is not your job to do all the talking… An odd idea for a teacher, I know.

But too often, classrooms are filled with teachers who talk and students to listen. Gone are the days where this is our job.

If you are doing more talking then your students, you are working too hard. Our job as teachers is to make our students think, which means less talking and more asking. Yes, asking questions. How many things do you say in a lesson, which could actually be turned into a question instead?
Just because your students are listening does not mean they are learning. We need to ensure our students are actually thinking to be learning, and the best way to do this is through asking questions.

Now, this does mean you have to think of other creative ways to teach in order to get students thinking, but it also means the learning will be far more engaging than you just sharing a bunch of facts and showing them what it is they are doing (let’s be real here, your students don’t need to listen to you talk all the time).

When I teach, I have a few go-to questions I use over and over again:
What are we learning?
How do you know?
Explain that in more detail?
Can you add to that?

These questions can be applied in any subject, and mean our students have to actually think about their learning, not about the activity.

Why else are using questions a great idea?

Because it means your students are talking, listening, connecting and challenging each other. A great bonus about teaching through questions is it means our students have something to do other than listen. Think/pair/share, talking partners, clock partners, see/think/wonder; these are examples of different ways we can have our students think and talk about learning, not just listen to us talk about learning.

So how does this look in a classroom?the teachers coach

1. Ask more questions than you do share facts and content.
2. Think of and plan creative ways to get your students thinking.
3. Create key questions which match the essential learning.
4. Include an opportunity for students to talk to each other every 5 minutes or so (they get bored of hearing you talk for longer than that – sorry)
5. Always ask a follow-up question; Tell me more… Why do you think that? Can anyone add to that? What makes you say that? How do you know?

Remember, questions mean the students do all the hard work in the lesson, your hard work comes in thinking about how to put a great lesson together and working with your students on their learning.

*Not sure how many questions you ask or if your students are really listening? A great way to see is to record yourself and do a question audit recording how many questions you ask and noticing where you could have asked a question instead of giving a fact.

5 things to implement on your first week back!

5 things to Implement on your first week back!

So you are back. Holiday mode is off and school mode is back on. You have swapped late nights for laminating, sleep ins for staff meetings and pool parties for planning. The summer holidays are officially over!

By now you have most likely started to get your school mode up and going, your students are either with you, or arriving in the next few days, you have your name labels printed, door display up and the pots ready to be filled with pencils. The new year buzz and excitement is around you, you can feel it, but so is something else…

It is this time of year we get confused about our emotions; excited for our new class, mew responsibilities and new things to teach but also scared, doubtful, worried, our head fills with thoughts we just can’t escape…

‘Will I be good enough for these students?’

‘ Will my students learn?’

‘Will the parents like me?’

‘Will I have enough time for each of them?’

‘Will I have enough time for myself and my family?’

‘How much work will I have to do on the weekend?’

All of these thoughts are normal, we all have them, but what you need to understand is that none of this needs to be true, these are just thoughts designed by your ego to keep you safe. Safe is good. But change means getting a little uncomfortable, going into the unknown, trying new things, and new things can be hard, which is why we like things to be the same and the ego is around to keep us safe.

However, if you want change, if you want things to be different or you want to just know you are improving, you have to try new things. And what better time is there than now?

The start of the year is perfect for starting new ways of doing things, that’s why so many people start the year with new years resolutions or goals; fresh year, fresh start.

So this year, I challenge you to implement some new things which I can honestly have honestly helped me to make better use of my time, get more done and reduce the stress I have felt.

5 things to Implement on your first week back!

  1. Routine

If you ever read, hear or listen to anything about successful people ad how they manage to achieve so much they always talk about establishing and sticking to a routine. Routine is great for so many reasons, it ensures you maximise time by having set things to do, you don’t waste time wondering what to do with the time you have, and your brain loves it. Routine means predictability, safety and no surprises, which means you brain is ready before you even start, and productivity is up.

  1. Establish a home time

Home time. The bell rings, all the students run out the door with their bags over their shoulders and you breathe a sigh of relief thinking: ‘Now I can get to work’. Your to-do list is long, you have parents to call and a meeting to go to. Home time for you is a long way off…

Home time though is really important, not just so you can go and be with your family, but so you can switch off, breathe easy and again, it’s routine. Before you eye roll and think it just isn’t possible, there is one more piece of advice I have. Before going home, make sure you have everything ready for tomorrow; resources made, photocopied and organised, day planned out and things ready to go. Everything else can wait, and you can go home.

  1. Make the most of the little bits of time you have – they add up

Time – the one thing we all want more of. Only, time really is plentiful, it is just how we use it that makes a difference. I often hear teachers say they don’t have enough time, that they haven’t had any time during the day to do anything. Yet, we always seem to have time for a coffee break, a chat in the playground or a visit to a colleague in the afternoon. Now I am not saying we shouldn’t do these things. All of these things are important, and you should do them every now and then, but do you need to do all 3 every day?

There are hidden bits of time here which you can use to the quick and easy jobs; have your coffee while marking homework, cut out resources over lunch with colleagues or use the afternoon conversation as a chance to get together and do some marking or change a display. All the little moments add up.

  1. Mindfulness and gratitude are a must

I work alot with teachers on mindfulness and gratitude. Whist they are common words at the moment and we talk about them to our students, pausing and applying them to ourselves isn’t as easy… But, both of these things are proven to help with stress, overwhelm and burnout; all things which teachers talk about.

I highly recommend using a gratitude journal or jar with your class and personally, writing 5 things a day you are grateful for, or adding notes to the jar as a class and reading them at the end of the year. Mindfulness is also a must to help with calming your mind, pausing and even getting to sleep; meditation apps (there are heaps), or videos on YouTube are great to use as a class or before bed. A great way to calm the mind and finally be at ease. Both of these things will have ripples into the following days and weeks (if done consistently) and make a huge benefit to how you and your students feel.

  1. Build relationships with EVERYONE

Schools are busy people; colleagues, staff, office people, parents, students… There are so many small communities in one. Building relationships with each group is key, that doesn’t mean everyone, but I would work on developing relationships with those who you are going to be connected to a lot throughout the year. Smile, ask questions, be polite, all these things are free but go along way. Before asking the office staff to do something for you, say hello and ask how they are, contact all your parents telling them something good about their child by the end of week 3, take time out of the first week to just chat to your students and really take an interest in them – all of these things are simple yet very affective and will set you up for the year ahead.

These 5 things are from my own personal first week back to school check list, I trust that by implementing these you will set yourself up for a successful 2019!

Differentiation – Meeting student needs, not teacher needs.

Differentiation is a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but the more it is talked about, the more we are expected to do it, and why shouldn’t we?

Differentiation really is key to ensuring your students are getting the learning your students need, at their level and with the support or extension they need.

So what exactly is differentiation?

Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction. – Carol Ann Tomlinson (http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction).

Differentiation is all about making sure we are continually teaching students at their point of need. Yet for some reason, there are still many of us who just don’t get this.

When working with teachers on differentiation, I often find myself having to explain that differentiation does not mean just doing a different activity. Differentiation is not just having the more able students work by themselves or having the struggling students taken out for support.

Differentiation is something we consciously plan for by making informed decisions using summative data. Not something we do ad-hoc because a student can’t complete what we have planned or because a child finished early. It is something we plan for.

This means, as teachers, we need to be considering in advance what our students can currently do, what we want our students to know, what we want them to be learning and what we need to teach to make that happen.

Now not every student will be at the same place, with the same interests, or learn in the same way. This is where differentiation comes in.

So how do we do this? Well it is all linked to the learning.

Take 2 digit addition in year 3 for example, some students will know this already, some will still be using concrete materials and some are working on using a written method – so this is how you differentiate. You give the students what they need. Teach the addition lesson, but differentiate. Those who want or need counters can use them, those who are using a number line can do that, and maybe some are ready to move onto more efficient mental strategies.

Give students what they need – not what you want them to need.