Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lower the Pressure, Raise the Bar

It was an interesting experiment today. I was to meet with my lowest guided reading group and anticipated a bit of frustration all around. I had a cute book, "Frog" that seemed possibly "too hard" but I was going to do an experiment of sorts. What if I did a picture walk of the book and engaged the students in playful conversation about this frog who ventured out of his pond into the city? Would their amusement and curiosity about the story propel them into making an effort to read?
The answer: a resounding yes!
I am learning more and more that a positive classroom climate, filled with curiosity, fascination and humor enables kids to take risks in learning. Many kids, even at 5, have learned that it's sometimes easier to remain quiet than answer a question and be wrong. I don't let them remain quiet; I ask them to make a guess based on what they know. Because they have been with me for 132 days of school, they trust me. And they know I believe in them.
We need to keep expectations high, but find ways to lower the stress and anxiety that often cripples kids in their learning. A trusting student-teacher relationship is a great place to start.


Unknown said...

Great post! It is always exciting to see students reach past what they thought they could do and great teachers like yourself help them feel safe when doing so. After students have moved on from your class, they may not rememember what you said, and even most of what you taught, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

Angela said...

I agree--and it also translates into the work that I do as a literacy coach with teachers.

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Thanks Ed and Angela! It was so magical to see the glow on their faces as they even surprised themselves with what they could do! Thanks for the feedback.

Positive Leaders said...

Joan, Your perspective is wonderful! I love the fact that you are trying positive approaches and sharing the results. If you come across a middle/high school teacher doing something similar, please let me know.

Thanks for your blog!
Christine Duvivier

Gretchen Wolthausen said...

I REALLY needed to read this! I'm relaxing and coming back more positive on Monday!

poulingail said...

I needed to read this as well. I have been feeling the frustration when the lowest group can't even find the page, let alone decode a single word. This has put the fun back in my day. I will make it more enjoyable for all, starting tomorrow. Oh, and thanks for the follow on Twitter. Gotta love a K teacher ;D