After I read Deven’s post, I thought about the children in my classroom. I teach Kindergarten through 5th grade music. I try to ask as many open-ended questions as possible to help my students really think. Sometimes, it’s successful… but mostly, it’s the same kids raising their hands every day.
For a while, I countered with, “I need to see some new hands,” and encouraging smiles at those who did not raise their hands. Sometimes, that worked, but mostly I still have those eager ones who always want to try.
From Deven’s ideas, I decided to have a quick time-out with all of my classes… even Kindergarten. I asked them what was more important: answering correctly or learning from our mistakes. We talked about how our brains learn, and that when we work together and learn from mistakes, we all learn better. I asked them if it was embarrassing to answer a question with the wrong answer. Some of the kids said they were afraid the others in their class would think they were stupid. We all agreed that we can help each other learn by understanding some of us know a few things that others don’t. Wouldn’t it be great if we all shared that knowledge together? We could help each other be smarter!
Wow. What a surprise I had the next day. I thought that, since they all had enthusiastically agreed about our new learning plan, things would be better. Nope. That’s when I thought about the Four Word Education Plan: “I’m not sure, but…”
We took another brief time-out. I modeled how to answer a question with those four words. I asked for other examples from the kids: “What else could we say when we answer a question?” Some proposed, “This is just a guess, but I THINK…”
Glory, Hallelujah! They are thinking. Not just answering easy, rote-learned answers, but thinking!
We talked about how guessing, especially guesses that take into account what we have already learned and what we haven’t yet learned, are GOOD! Without guessing, inventors wouldn’t invent anything. Discoveries would never be discovered.
I still had a few holdouts. There are some of my kids who like to stay tuned out and let others in the class answer all the questions. So I added one more component to my learning plan: “Please raise your hand before answering, but I might call on you even if your hand isn’t raised.” Guess who likes using the “I’m not sure, but…” option the most?