OK, admit it. You’re assuming this is going to be about how to ask effective questions in order to increase test scores. Does everything that goes on in a classroom have to be about TEST SCORES? I recently saw a cartoon that made me wonder: are we losing touch with each other? Think in reverse: how would your day be we didn’t have high stakes testing? Personally, I shake my head when I realize in 2014 100% of students must pass standardized testing. But, I digress.
The first thing I thought of, if I taught in a school without high stakes testing, is I’d ask questions. Lots of questions. I went to hear Ron Clark speak at Virginian Wesleyan, and one his observations that struck me the most is he noticed that in high performing schools, principals ask lots of questions:
“Johnny, how did your test go in Math yesterday?”
“Tommy, how’s your sick grandfather?”
You get the idea. The principal/teacher KNEW his students beyond the mere fact that Tommy’s successful passing of the standardized test would get the school 3% closer to making AYP or full accreditation. Why try if nobody “sees” me? If Tommy is raising his siblings and getting them ready for school in the morning while mom is at work struggling to put food on the table, mastering nouns is not high on the list of importance. A teacher raising his voice to Tommy in the morning for not doing homework is not going to instill a love of learning. Empathizing and listening to a student is, and that can start with a question.
Imagine Tommy being greeted at the bus by a teacher, “Tommy! Welcome to a new day!” [positive interaction 1]. As he climbs the stairs to the classroom and eyes his teacher at the door, she turns and says, “Tommy, how did it go last night? Were you able to work on your essay?” Right there Tommy realizes that somebody cares and also is held accountable in a postive matter. First, the teacher is holding him to responsibility, and secondly, Tommy knows the teacher is aware of something personal [positive reaction 2]. This lessens public humiliation, a homework plan can be started, and Tommy enters a safe environment.
Or, imagine a high achiever who is lonely and shy in the midst of 30 other classmates. Sally Sue is greeted at the door by a teacher, and is asked, “I have a project I’d like you to work on with two other people during Science. You’re going to make a video for clouds. What would you like to put on it?” “Wow,” Sally might think, “Mr. ___” knows I’m smart, in spite of my quietness!”
What about taking five minutes at the beginning of Monday’s class to share something from your weekend and ask if anybody else did something new or fun? Sometimes I used to, when a classroom teacher, stand at the door and make funny faces as students walked through the door. They’d laugh and I’d say, “What’s that weird expression on your face?” Starting the day with a smile, a laugh, and a non-SOL comment brought a fresh air to their day. Those five minutes might encourage the students enough, knowing their thoughts and lives are important, that the monotony of irregular plural nouns a little more palatable.
Besides, who wants to spend their 12 years doing nothing but making widgets? Making a community in a school certainly is a sure fire way to increase test scores!
PS: I have NO CLUE what Invalid Forum code means