Monday, September 3, 2012

STAAR Teaching Strategies-Student Names

Last year our district adopted the STAAR teaching strategies.  These are five things every teacher should be doing in his/her classroom daily and are adapted from some of the 49 techniques detailed in the book "Teach Like a Champion."  Many good teachers do some or even all of these things but the question is...Are you doing them effectively?  When implemented with fidelity, these strategies will push you from being that good teacher to a great one.

Each day this week I will talk about one letter from the acronym and its meaning.  We'll go into detail about how this looks in the classroom.  My hope is that you'll be able to take something away that challenges you to be a better teacher because with an increase in quality instruction comes an increase in student achievement.  And that's what it's all about....what's best for kids.

We'll begin with the first letter in our acronym...the letter "S".  "S" stands for student names...use them.  Many of you are probably thinking, "I do use my students' names."  Do you use them as often as you should?  We should be calling on our kids by name at least six times a day.  As a kindergarten teacher, I feel like that happens A LOT more than that!  It's almost impossible to be an effective teacher without using your students' names.  Instead of calling kids to the carpet by table group or back to your teacher table by reading group, call them by name.  The personal touch you get from calling someone by their name is a very effective tool.

To extend that strategy even further, let's look at how it effects questioning.  It's easy to get in the habit of calling on a student and then asking a question.  What we forget though that when that happens every other student is now off the hook.  They are no longer thinking about that question because you've already revealed who you are calling on to give an answer.  If we're challenging our kids in their thinking, why would we use a structure that just holds one student accountable?  When you pose a question, instead try this method.  Ask the question first, provide wait time for students to formulate an answer and then call on a student by name.  And don't be afraid to "cold call", which means you are calling on students whether or not they have raised their hand.  Sometimes it's easy for us to focus solely on who is going to give us the right answer.  Instead we should be focusing on a system that fosters engagement and that accountability piece that comes with knowing they could be called on regardless if they volunteer. 

What about how using student names effects academic feedback?  As you circulate the room, what kind of feedback are you giving your students?  Are you just simply telling them, "Good Job" or is your feedback academically focused?  When you go to provide feedback to a student, use their name and then be specific..." _____, I noticed that...."  When we are calling on students individually and providing very specific feedback it is much more effective than the generic praise.  We want to praise our students for their hard work and mastery but we want it to be high quality.

I'll be back tomorrow to focus on "T"- Teach Bell to Bell.  Have a Terrific Tuesday!

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