Saturday, 23 February 2013

Pick A Stick

I don't know why I had never noticed this at any of my other schools before. I'm assuming it is not just me (that is really just to keep my self-confidence in tact) and not just this school, but this year and really the last few months I have noticed that as soon as I start to give instructions for a task the eyes of my students begin to glaze over. Not all of them, mind you, but the students who should really be paying attention begin to not pay attention. It drives me nuts and I cannot understand it!!!

So lately I have been using a strategy that I learned in teacher's college and that I have used successfully in the past - "Pick-a-Stick". When you have 10 classes like I do it takes a bit of time to set up. You start off by writing each student's name on a popsicle stick. I picked up some coloured popsicle sticks from Dollarama so that I could colour coordinate them for each class. Sadly, they didn't have 10 different colours so I had to settle for 5.  I separated them in to one of the millions of plastic baskets I have stored in my cupboard (yay for beating the temptation of wanting to buy new, prettier baskets!) and placed them on top of my piano where they are easy to reach.

Basically, you ask a question and pick a stick and whoever's name is on that stick is the one who gets to answer your question. You can differentiate by picking the stick first and choosing a question that you know that student should be able to answer successfully. 

I have been using this strategy in a number of different ways. I have been asking simple review questions, choosing students to repeat back the instructions for a task, putting students into groups "randomly" using the sticks, and have also been choosing students in my band classes to play individually in front of the class. For example, we were doing a lesson on playing slurs and I had some patterns up on the Smart Board. I modeled how to play the pattern on my flute ("You sound like a mermaid!" said one of my students. Ha ha!), we played them a few times as a class, and then I drew a few sticks and those students played the patterns. That gave me a chance to do a quick, informal assessment at the same time that it gave them more experience playing solo. 

This strategy makes students uncomfortable but it also trains them to pay a bit more attention. I have decided my goal for the next few months is to figure out new ways of keeping my students engaged. Stay tuned because yesterday I ordered this book from Amazon - "Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner"

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