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.