April 29, 2018

Smarties Moments

We have a new phrase in Room 208 and it's "Smarties Moments". On Thursday at Morning Meeting, the boys and girls participated in an activity that I hope will help them understand that they all play a role in helping our room to be the most positive and optimal learning and working environment for all members of our little family.

We're struggling a bit in our class with following a few of the expectations we have in place for being active listeners and learners, which can make it difficult for a lesson to go smoothly and without excessive interruptions. So to assist with this, I came up with an activity that I hoped would resonate.
Image result for smarties
Each child received a Smartie and they were asked not to eat it until invited to do so.  Then, I asked the students to raise the Smartie to their mouth. On the count of three, they were allowed to eat it.  I explained their most important job was to eat the Smartie. I told them, "It is essential that you eat this Smartie now!"  I asked them how they felt just prior to putting it in their mouth and most of them reported, "We're excited, we just wanna eat it!" 

And then I began counting to three and then I'd get to about "2" and pause. Over and over again, I would stop and interrupt the process with an unrelated comment or story,a distracting noise or habit, or something I absolutely had to do (e.g. tidy my desk, talk with a neighbor). I repeatedly interrupted the boys and girls from eating their Smartie.   

I could sense the tension building.  I asked, "How are you feeling right now, in this moment?"  They ALL reported they felt frustrated because, I was making it hard for them to do what they needed/wanted to do. 

Eventually everyone ate their Smartie and we talked about how I feel when I am doing one of my most favorite things: teaching and sharing lessons I enjoy preparing.  I talked about how it can be just like trying to eat the Smartie when students start making noises with the items on their desks,  getting up to do things or raising their hands to share information that is not related to the topic at hand while I am teaching or instructing.  We  talked specifically about how that last one in particular is an indicator that someone is not being an active listener.  

Then, we reviewed expectations for the times throughout the day where they are receiving information or instructions: 

  • our body language shows "I'm listening and ready to learn" so we're facing the teacher, hands up on our desk or in our lap and unless we have special permission, we're not holding anything 
  • we are not sneaking in bites of our snacks during these times 
  • as tempting as it may be, we avoid interrupting the lesson to share stories or comments that are not related to the topic at hand because we have designated times for that (e.g. as we're getting ready for recess or during the lunch period). Questions related to the topic are always invited.  
  • we remain seated while the teacher is teaching unless we have a personal emergency, need a tissue, etc. 
  • if we do have a personal emergency, we can always tell our teacher by raising our hand and letting her know it's a emergency

As teachers we wear a lot of hats throughout the day: psychologist, social worker, referee, nurse, librarian, handy-person, technical support, lunch provider, you name it, but when it comes to the part of our day where we are actually teaching a specific lesson or concept, sharing information and instructing, it's important that those times are focused with as few interruptions as possible so that students go home each afternoon with the learning goals of the day met. 

My hope is that after our Smarties activity on Thursday, the boys and girls will have a new appreciation for why it is so important that everyone follow expectations and demonstrate effective listening skills and minimize the "Smarties moments" throughout the day.  


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