Back in 2012 I wrote a post about the value of ‘wait time’ when asking questions of my students. Since that time I have endeavoured to use ‘wait time’ with mixed success. I have tried really hard to find other ways of encouraging student participation besides ‘hands up’ including a pack of cards with students names on, that I hold in my hands and use to randomly select names. As well as named popsicle sticks which I can draw from a mug that sits on my desk. Again I have had mixed success with these methods. After my PD with Dylan Wiliam though I have been reflecting on this. With determination to get it right this year.
Dylan was quite clear on the need to stop relying on students putting up their hands to answer a teacher question. Why? Because a teacher who just takes answers from students with their hands up, gives permission to all the other students to switch off. Dylan’s research clearly shows that when a teacher relies on ‘hands up’, students will only answer if they think their reply will be the right one. We all know that our classes are populated with some students who love to hear the sound of their own voice and others who shrink from publicly putting themselves out there. Add to the mix those who, for whatever reason, do not listen to your questions and the chances are any discussions will not be as rich as they should be.
So why are some students so determined to thrust their hands in the air? Is it because after six years of schooling this is ingrained behaviour?
Why do others avoid eye contact and shrink from having a go? Is it because they still have a fear of failing?
How can we ensure all students at engaged, listening all the time? So that as teachers we can be sure they are learning.
My goal this year is to avoid having students put their hands up 80% of the time. Dylan assured us that to enforce this as a routine will take up to a year for me to use as habit. How will I achieve that goal?
I will continue to use cards and pop sticks. I know there are apps too, so I may explore those.
I will plan, prepare and think deeply about the questions I want to ask. So as to ensure they are not ones I already know the answers to. I need to ensure they are ones that will encourage rich discussions.
I will use think. pair, share to ensure all students are talking, at least to each other if not always to me.
I will reiterate and reiterate that in 6MW there is no such word as failure. That to fail is to take ones First, Attempt, At, Learning.
Once I have ensured I have chosen a few students at random, I will allow those eager beavers to have their say too.
I will ask ‘no hands up’ questions at least every twenty minutes, so as to ensure my students are engaged and listening.
I will change my habit of relying on students who put their hands up
to answer questions in class. How about you?