Thursday, May 2, 2013

Encouraging Classroom Confidence

I am not getting sidetracked from the Oral Writing Series, in fact I am addressing an issue that goes hand in hand with implementing Oral Writing in the classroom.  Whole Brain Teaching forces students to be vocal and animated, which for many shy students is intimidating.  Students do not like to participate because they do not like to fail.  If you create a supportive classroom environment where students  aren't able to fail,  then students will automatically gain more confidence.


Imagine a classroom where making a mistake means you hear a positive affirmation about yourself.  In a WBT classroom this is a regular occurrence.  Anytime I need to correct a student, I first give the gesture (like an "it's okay, no problem" wave) and the students exclaim enthusiastically, "You're still cool!"  After hearing that, many  times students realize the mistake and self correct on their own, but it really prevents the students from feeling bad about themselves.  Many of my students tend to forget they have this helpful rule, so while reading the Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids manual, I took note of the reminder to cue the class for the student by saying "Help him/her!"" I remember when I used to be in school and someone gave the wrong answer, you would hear snickers, smirks or "I can't believe she didn't know that"!  A WBT classroom is a place where it is okay to make mistakes or be given direction.   Heck, even I hear "Your still cool," several times a day, and it makes me feel SO cool :)


Just like you get stuck sometimes while writing, it is natural for students to also find themselves stuck when giving oral answers!  A student might raise their hand and completely lose their train of thought, or you may call on a student and they are completely lost!  Instead of sitting there awkwardly in front of the class, teach them to simply say "Help me!" and throw their arms up.  That is the cue for the class to start throwing out suggestions aloud to answer the question.  The student will then find themselves with a multitude of hints to help them get "unstuck" and answer the question. In general, students will have more confidence participating and answering questions because they know they've got the support of their peers.


 Some students get nervous when called upon, and ramble on and on about things unrelated to the question.  Other students like the spotlight and simply enjoy hearing themselves speak!  Regardless, students need to learn to stay ON topic  and answer questions confidently while keeping their answers focused.  All sentences in a paragraph must relate to the topic, and so the same rules apply with Oral Writing.  When students are answering a question, walk your fingers down your arm for each adder that stays on topic.  As soon as a sentence seems to veer off into left field, exclaim "AIIEE" and have your fingers bungee jump off your arm and return.  Students will repeat the gesture and say "Oh no! You fell off topic!" This is also great practice for students to decipher as a listener when a sentence is not directly related to the sentence before it.  If you train your students to fine tune their ears to  spot out when something in incorrect, it will be easier for them to prevent those same mistakes!  Part of being confident, is believing that you know what you are talking about, and having additional practice in this area will only help with student confidence!

"LET'S GO ____!  LET'S GO!

 This idea isn't a WBT thing, but it was something my class came up with for our Phillies Fridays and it became a staple due to popular demand.  When students stand, it is now suggested that we use  "All eyes on ____ " to get all students to focus their attention on one particular person. Students then respond with "All eyes on _____".   However,  immediately after we now  go into the sports chant, "Let's go _____.  Let's Go! Let's go _____. Let's Go!"  It instantly amps students up, and gives them that extra boost of belief in themselves to answer the question.  

Many times shy students feel safer in a partner setting such as in "Teach- Okay".  When rotating around to listen in on student answers and gauge their understanding, zero in on those "shy" students who try and be invisible when it comes time to share out to the class.  Whisper to that student that you may have them share their great answer to the class, so that they begin to prepare themselves.  Once they hear their classmates cheering them on, you see their enthusiasm and confidence instantly appear!  Wouldn't you have wanted  your own cheer squad back when you were in school?


These techniques can help students participate more and help them become more sure of themselves and their answers.  Make your room failure free, encourage peer support, and give as many opportunities for your students to hear positive affirmations about themselves.  This will give ALL your students the ability to soar.  

What techniques do you use  to encourage classroom confidence?  Please share!

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