During these first few weeks of school, I cover a few new routines each day to help the boys and girls have a smooth and not-so-overwhelming transition into Grade Three. Today, we didn't focus so much on new routines, but on the ways we work together to create the best possible learning environment. We all agreed that we want a happy, peaceful classroom where everyone can be successful. This means everyone needs to follow expectations and instructions. As grown-ups, we know what happens on the highway when people don't follow the expectations. People who follow too close or cut us off are frustrating and make it hard for the rest of us to be successful (or get where we need to go!). As drivers, we find the whole driving process frustrating and difficult and it certainly takes away from everyone's overall enjoyment.
Today we focused on something simple: what is the difference between an instruction and a suggestion? Through a number of examples over the course of the day, boys and girls were able to decipher between the two and they understand that instructions are a "need to do", while suggestions are optional.
Both require full listening and attention but following instructions is what will make this classroom most successful. Everyone wins when instructions are followed. The boys and girls also learned that since this isn't a very loud classroom, there will be very few instances where instructions will need to be repeated. We discussed how it might signal a problem if I have to repeat instructions several times(e.g."Please do not talk during the test").
This is totally different than not understanding instructions as they relate to a specific concept or lesson. I'm talking about following the basic ones such as, "Please stop talking" or "Please put your books away and walk to the carpet". You might say we're talking about instructions as they relate to self/class management. Instructions related to lessons (e.g. "Please solve this math problem") are very different and that's where students will receive all the support they need, as many times as they need it. In fact, I'm able to provide the support required because first those basic instructions are followed.
We also talked about showing leadership and encouraging others to follow instructions.
On a related note...this afternoon we had indoor recess due to the heat and the suggestion was given to the boys and girls to use recess time to finish up any incomplete math work thus far. It's so rewarding to see that the class made really smart use of my suggestion!