Saturday, 26 January 2008

The need for precise reachable challenges B2

I’m learning a lot about education as I train a friend’s dog.

As long as he thinks he’s going to do something he wants, he will do whatever you ask. Sometimes I just wait until he does as required – no scolding just wait – five minutes if necessarily – just look round and enjoy the scenery.

Here is the time to be very strict and precise in one’s commands and reward regularly that he’s doing what you want. There is never an occasion when you have to be negative but some waiting is necessary.

Secondly avoid situations with more freedom than they can cope with unless this is the next stage in the learning process when easier challenges have been mastered.

I found children enjoyed very precise challenges.

I chose to teach Design Technology in a ‘difficult school’ because I love making things with my hands particularly things that require you to be precise and I liked the Head!

I used the labels, described in last week’s blog, to reward desirable behaviour - in the same way I give tasty chews to the dog.

I had the kids line up outside the workshop and would wait and wait until they were as I required. Eventually some of the children would get frustrated with just waiting and get the unruly ones to conform. You the teacher did nothing to show annoyance, or shout, you had all the time in the world and looked disinterested.

On a few occasions with older children (Year 9) I remember just leaving them outside to stew somewhere where they didn’t disturb others (this could take a bit of planning) and went into my workshop and closed the door on them with the statement come in and tell me when you’re ready. After less than five minutes they were ready. If they came in and were noisy they were out again until I got what I wanted. I never shouted (well rarely) but left them to decide.

Normally they were keen. So they where all lined up (for the most part) – it was a mistake to be a perfectionist. I would let them in with my stickers (Abel Labels) at the ready and without saying anything go round to those who where ready in their allocated place with their school diary, pencil and ruler placed neatly in front of them, arms folded mouths closed and looking at me. Immediately they got a sticker No comment, and I was striding around the room giving out stickers to the first ten and half stickers to the next ten. This way the whole class was ready and quiet within 90 seconds. It was a big game and they loved it!

Next take your homework out for collection – not made part of the original presentation as if they hadn’t done homework, I didn’t want them to miss out on a sticker at the beginning of the lesson. Now no stickers but once collected (no comment to those without) then give out last weeks homework. Here stickers given out again as already described last weeks blog entry B1.

I inevitably skipped taking the register as I could tell already those that weren’t presented and they knew it was just a ploy to get them to conform. Straight into the lesson.

“Right ( I love “right” – it has a certain ring!) “I want you to stand round my demonstration bench exactly one metre from you stomach to the edge of the table” (another game to play and I was very demanding on the metre which I already had to hand). Those who got it right got a . . . . . you’ve guessed . . a sticker – often only 3 in 22. This ruse/game would only be played once – I had them for half a term.

With older children – Year 9, the crucial thing is to come up with a project they really want to do – in Design Technology: Design their bedroom using the Argos catalogue, make an accurate Wind Vane using the Lathe, soldering etc – ICT use Flash for a Talking Heads project.

Next time the concept of the kit so that everyone succeeds - even the least able!

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