I should no longer be surprised by something I noticed again in my class today. While I feel it is important to look at the person talking to me and paying attention, it seems my way of listening/learning is so outdated! This lesson is taught to me daily by my own daughter who almost ALWAYS can tell me exactly what I have said when I say “Are you listening to me? What did I just tell you to do?” Mom reverse psychology fail.
Anyway, back to school, I was a student who paid attention. Who looked at the person speaking. Who had my books open, notes prepared, pen in hand, making notes, writing questions. My students today, not so much. This happens frequently and I must re-train my brain. You’d think I have this down pat by now!
We were listening to an audio version of a book we are reading in class today. One thing I have learned is that my students absolutely LOVE being read to. Seriously, they do. My students struggle so much with reading that hearing a story is so much more rewarding for them. This isn’t being “lazy” as you might think. My students may be able to read most of the words, but lack the fluency and basic grammatical nuances to really help them put the words into context. Often, even when they do read it correctly, getting through a number of paragraphs or pages, they have lost meaning or memory of what they have just read. They are craving the knowledge, they have the basic desire to be captivated by a book, they just can’t seem to do it by themselves. I must never forget that. We all love a good story, the trick is finding out the best way to deliver it.
Back to my point, I put in an audio version of a book we are reading. This version has different voice actors, so dialogue is better understood and narrative points are pronounced. It adds a sense of realism to the story. It helps that this story is about a teenager about their age who is facing jail time and is wondering what will happen to him – content is helpful here! I go into teacher mode. I go up aisles, help students find pages, organize questions, help a few get caught up, pause here and there for clarification.
Part of me is a little dismayed as I look around the room and notice a number of students don’t have the book open when I am walking up and down. A few have their heads down. Some are doodling. A few are looking through the book to see how long it is, if there are any pictures (or worse – other student doodles). Nevertheless, I solider on, because I know a few do enjoy this book. I had to stop myself from being “student” me. Student me would be all over this. I didn’t struggle in school the way my students do. I enjoyed learning as some of mine don’t. And last, but not least, the wily teacher in me thinks, I am NOT seeing the whole picture.
True! As I stop for some clarification and to answer a few questions, I start going off the page and ask the “higher level” thinking questions. Sure enough, the doodlers, the head downs, the closed book students shoot up their hands with the correct answers and some good application. Heck, they even remembered what happened yesterday and pieced the parts together and made some inferences. WHA????? Yep. That just happened.
I don’t need to have them fill out a questionnaire to know they have “different learning styles”. Please. I also hope that when we have a walk-by from a principal or superintendent that they don’t assume nothing is happening or they aren’t engaged because they aren’t following everyline on a script. Learning looks different. My students were paying attention. They like the story. They could tell me what was happening. They could apply things to other parts in the book and in the outside world. They probably were more engaged than if I forced them to read something they struggle with and just gave up.
While it may not be cool to look like you are paying attention, they still are. I even throw in some wrong content just for argument’s sake and they jump all over me. Heck, they even told me when I skipped some questions, because they wanted to see if they were right with their answers. Secretly paying attention. Never underestimate a student and a good story.