Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to handle the epic fail

We have all been there. Our curriculum looks beautiful, we have all the supplies, the kids (and we, the teachers) are jonesing to jump in and go full steam ahead. So we start...within an hour the kids are antsy, not following directions, not completing work we know they are capable us. Argh! Is there anything more frustrating? Inevitable we keep trudging along, even though we begin to dread the start of school each day. We might even toy with the idea of putting the kinds in PS just to get a break! so, I thought I would write a little on using those epic fails to your advantage. Don't lose hope. Ever hear the saying, " you must kiss a hundred frogs before you find a prince"? This is how I tell newbies to approach HS. This is also one of the main reasons I'm against spending a load of $$ right away. Because you know what? Everyone learns differently. Not only that, but a child's learning style might evolve over time. So even if you get a curriculum that is similar to their style from the previous year, it may no longer work. There are a few things to keep in mind to stave off frustration: 1) Don't beat a dead horse. (I'm working metaphors for all they are worth in this article! Lol) If something isn't working for 1 week then STOP. It may just mean you all need a little break. So you can try again in a couple of weeks. If it is again an epic fail after another week, then let it go. Find another approach, or it may just mean they are not ready for the information (see point 3 for developmental milestones). 2) What looks good to you may be an epic fail for them. I remember when I first began to HS, I planned how I wished I had been taught - I learn by writing things down. Doing a lot of copy work, worksheets, etc. Epic fail. My oldest is a visual learner. It was pointless to have him do a ton of writing assignments. Sure I might be able to browbeat him into eventually completing the work, but he wouldn't retain any of the information. This was probably more frustrating than him just not completing the work to begin with. We'd spend literally hours on one assignment, with a lot of yelling to keep things on track, and finally (FINALLY) the work is finished and I ask, so what is blah? And he would stare at me uncomprehendingly. Even if I promoted to get the right answer, I'd still get nowhere. Finally a lightbulb went off above my blonde head - maybe he doesn't learn from writing things out? Duh. Lol. I had a whole school room devoted to notebooking that I had to donate. But even this fail is a step in the right direction. I can now eliminate any curriculum tool that is based on writing. So instead of notebooking, we changed to Lapbooking - which still has some writing involved, but is much more visually stimulating. My point here is to be aware of your students learning styles, even if it is completely counter to your own. Then try to find tools based in that style. 3) Get ready for a change! Yup. You did your year of struggle, finally found a curriculum that works, you go with it. It might even work for a few years, then it all starts to fall apart. Why? Well children are growing and changing. So too do their learning styles. Here is my own break down of typical styles-to-ages. Bear in mind every child is different, so your child might be different, this is just a guide. Pre-k - 2nd grade = Kinetic: it's all about the hands on learning, manipulatives, getting their senses involved. This is because they are just coming out of the toddler years, so their mind is still in tune with using eir senses to acquire information. If a toddler sees something new, they generally touch it, put it in their mouth, etc. well these early grades are not quite that bad, but their attention spans are still pretty short and they a not yet trained to acquire information through reading. Even with an early reader/writer, you'll want to have curriculum that is heavy on the kinetic learning. 2nd-4th = Visual: it's all about creating that picture in their mind. If you want to learn ancient history, they will remember more if you make it like a story where they can see the visual image, like a movie, in their head. They can learn a lot through short films and discussions. They are just beginning to become aware of themselves as individual entities. They still might enjoy manipulatives, but you can begin trickling in more complex content as long as you do it in a way that creates the visual in the mind. 4th-7th = Combo: these learners need a variety of tools - they can acquire information from reading and writing, they can learn through the visual, etc. they need a little of everything. Here it's time to begin cutting the apron strings. These students do much better with a bit of independance. They can make better choices. So I advise getting an outline together of what you want covered then pulling together resources that meet a variety of requirements and letting the student choose which sparks their interest. 8th-Graduation = Independant Study/Audio: here learning is really all up to them. Whether it be digesting the information delivered from a lecture, A documentary or through literature, they take whatever techniquest they have developed ov time, to process and retain information. They should also be capable of not just regurgitating information (memorization) but changing information into their own words. No matter your students personality or age, there will come a time when choices must be made. An unfortunate result could be the epic fail. But don't let it get you down. Being a HS educator is as much a learning experience as being an HS student is. We are all on a path of self discovery, growth and learning. Happy learning!

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