Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things

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Children are unpredictable. And yet, this is why we love them, and this is what can make teaching so entertaining.

In college, a professor of mine suggested we keep a running record of "The Darndest Things Kids Say" so that we could nostalgically remember those brutally honest, overly literal, and just plain hilarious responses.

Well, I should’ve listened to that professor. If I did, I’d have an authentic script in my hands for the 2012 version of Kids Say The Darndest Things. 

One of my personal favorite stories is from when my students were learning about the atmosphere. The students were given a creative writing assignment to write a letter to the atmosphere, thanking it for everything that it does. One of my girls raised her hand and asked, “Are we really going to mail these letters to the atmosphere?”

I wasn’t sure what to do first. Sigh? Smile? Clarify? Or make this “Comment 1” of my running record book.

I’m sure you can identify with these moments. It can be hard to think on your feet and be prepared to respond quickly, appropriately, and supportively. And how you handle the situation may determine the fate of your lesson. Engage in a discussion, and you’ve successfully “bird walked” off topic. Laugh along, and now the class has lost its focus. Ignore, and the child feels bad.

We want to maintain a healthy classroom environment where our students feel safe, supported, and motivated, regardless of these moments. 

So the next time your kiddos pull the rug out from under you or leave you speechless, remember these 3 words as you craft your response:

*  Acknowledge  *  Prompt  *  Move On

1.     Acknowledge the response:
“That was a really good try…”
 “I like the way you are thinking…”
 “I’m glad you brought that up…”
 “Thank you for participating…”

2.     Prompt to Redirect and Clarify:
“What do you mean by…”
“Can you be more specific…”
“What I heard you say is… Is that correct?”
“What made you think this…” 

3.     Move on:
This is incredibly crucial for students who give bogus answers in an effort to be funny, or for students who are embarrassed to talk in front of others or give an incorrect answer. There is no point harping on a wrong answer beyond acknowledgement and clarifying.

And while we don’t want to admit blame, let’s be honest that some of the wacky responses we’ve received from students could be in part due to our own poor questioning.

1.     Give appropriate wait time for students to respond
2.     Be specific and clear
3.     Offer support tools/strategies as needed 

So, if you haven’t started your own Running Record just yet, it’s probably a good idea to start. These moments are priceless, and you don’t want to forget them.

Click here to read funny and entertaining letters from kids!

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