Intend to Attend February 2, 2017 06:58
I love the sayings on my wall in my classroom:
I’ve added a new one.
Intend to Attend!
My third grader reading class students are very precocious. They somehow got the impression that being smart meant they needed to be good at everything. So, when they come into my den of learners, they find the first challenge most have had since they entered school. Imagine determining their ability to achieve at such a young age even without having been introduced to problem solving strategies. When we delve into the topic, some confess they are afraid to let the teaches know they don’t know how to do something because they get the response, “You can figure this out, you are smart.’ Wow, that is a powerful message. Since they are bright, they form the opinion that they have to know everything or they aren’t smart. In other cases, they have people who automatically do everything to make things easy, so when they hit a challenge they can’t solve independently, they don’t feel they are as smart as others have told them.
Since these students are competent readers when they came into third grade, I step up the demands, but not without many discussions about how the activities make them feel.
The first assignment always is a half page story. The questions require inferential answers. I assure the children that this is an assignment that they are free to leave blanks if they can’t find the answer. They look at the paper and think, “She doesn’t know how smart we are,” and deduce it is an easy assignment because of its length. Then they proceed to speed through it. It isn’t long before I begin to see squirming and in some cases outward signs of distress. It all starts with the first child crying. Then another comes to me privately with expression of frustration. It is clear by the lack of answers on the papers, that I have achieved my objective. My goal is to deal with how these types of activities make them feel.
In a Socratic dialogue circle, we discuss how this assignment made them feel. It takes a little staging to get them to be honest. I always share how this type of assignment made me feel. “I hated these assignments. It didn’t help when the kid next to me finished in ten minutes and celebrated his completion. Then I felt even dumber. Anyone share my experience?“ The following responses followed:
“I pride myself on finding the right answers and I couldn’t in this assignment and I felt like ripping up the paper.”
“I’ve been told I have to get 100% on everything, or I wasn’t a good enough student to stay at this school.”
“I should have been able to do this, Everything else has been easy and this is the first hard reading assignment I’ve had.”
“I felt frustrated and thought I shouldn’t be in this class if I couldn’t do this paper.”
“If I don’t do well on all my work, my parents make me go to a tutor.”
There wasn’t a child in the class of 26 that didn’t share their feelings. What they needed to know was they were in good company and others shared their feelings.
The semester has been spent with delving into different types of text and exploring different strategies for each type. As a result, when I gave them another short story to read their responses changed, “Oh cool, I can do this.”
They felt empowered until they discovered I increased the difficulty one more time.They handed the frustration so much better and tried many of the strategies they had learned. I had a few asked to read the assignment aloud outside. Before I knew it, there were more children outside then inside.
The right amount of frustration is good if, and only if, it is followed up with a means for relief.
It was clear they had reached another level of frustration and needed more strategies. This provided an excellent opportunity to touch on the topic of automatic negative thoughts. The negative thoughts set off the amygdala and block their ability to see the answers. My job was to demonstrated how the negative thoughts about this assignment was impacting their ability to complete it successfully.
“If you have already decided you can’t find the answers, you have told your hippocampus to stop looking, so put down your pencils down and don’t do anything more because you won;t find the answer with that mindset. However, if you have decided that you haven’t found the answers yet and have told yourself you are not giving until you do, continue re-reading the passage differently until you do. Your brain will keep searching until it finds it. You may have to read it seventeen times using different tones each time. If you decide before that you couldn’t find the answers, change your thinking and you will change your results.”
I demonstrated seven ways to read the first two words, “Mother! Mother!” Just in those readings, three children realized that the third way I read it helped him find the answer. The children continued to reread the story and smiles began to appear on faces around the room. They had acquired yet another strategy and validation that they were in fact smart.
They decided to “Intend to Attend” until they found the answer.